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May 09, 2004


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I'm with you on this one. I remember the first time I went to an extempore-prayer meeting not knowing what was happening I was really scared thinking that they were working round the circle and I was going to have to pray out loud and I wasn't even sure yet what the rules were! The point is that even the most spontaneous prayer meeting has rules about who contributes and how and even what kind of style and language are appropriate. There are markers too for status and fervency [sorry the linguist in me just kicked in]. It's important to recognise this otherwise the discussion we might have about 'liturgy' [ie text-based praying] vs 'spontaneous' prayer [ie unwritten norms based praying] is about something that is not true: we all have rules to pray by; just some of us in some circumstances find it helpful to have them written down...

Personally I like spontaneity in prayer but most of the time I find that easier to handle in a written-liturgical framework -then, if I'm not feeling up to saying much, there is still something to say .... so to speak.

For me I find that I

Very well written.

I guess I'm on the far end of the spectrum on this issue.

I've always been very uncomfortable with pre-written prayers. When everyone says the same words, st the same time, it sounds spookily like a cult to me. Or worse, it feels like people reciting the magic words to make God do their bidding.

But as I read your post, I caught a glimpse of a different way to think about that experience. Maybe it won't be so odd for me next time.

Hanging around with DP definatley has a way of rubbing off on ya. You really put into words what my wife and I are going through presently. I understand what Michael Toy meant, and my response would be that the more we are exposed to it, the less cultlish feeling/sounding it becomes.

I think another way to think about chorally recited prayer is that it is an untuneful version of singing songs/hymns ... Actually people do it [in the UK at least] at things like football matches supporting their team ["Come on you blues..." all together now ...]. But I actually had in mind mostly the structuring of personal devotions round liturgy -where there isn't a culty chanting [though that obviously is kinda 'groovy' for people who like Buffy]more a taking hold of words to make them your own [which can, of course, happen in more corporate contexts too].

i too was raised with extemporaneous prrayer, and any prayer (even the "lord's prayer" was vain repetition) - how sad... we wrapped ourselved in the arrogance of the ignorant.

finding liturgy and written prayers has been the most freeing aspect to my recent spiritual growth. the depth of emotion and insight that the cloud of witnesses gone before left as gifts to us by their prayers moves me to experience god in ways that my own self-centered prayer could never do.

i like the idea of tempering - that's really what is needed. finding a balance, using all aspects open to us, redeeming even the aspects lost to our practice and faith heritage.

Hi, I used to be only into extemporaneous praying, like you coming from an evangelical background, and when I first got really involved, I used to have a real dread of those 'praying around the room' meetings that Andii mentioned.

Then, it was 'say how you feel' spontaneous prayers only'. Other Roman Catholic friends would only recite liturgical prayers.

And now? Now I find it helpful to blend the two, and at a service I led (I got invited to lead an Anglican Church service, wohooo!), I used both.

It's not one or t'other, it can be both, and I think our praying is the richer for it! An hour before visiting your blog I wrote about celtic prayer on my blog, and would commend celtic prayers as part of our arsenal.

I think you're absolutely (can I say that now?), right!

Great contributions to the topic, everyone -- thanks!

My hunch is that all of us desire a "balance" (as Heidi pointed out)in our prayer-life, between extemporaneous and liturgical/text-based expressions (thanks, Andii, for the terminology). In my own experience, I've identified "passion" as a key ingredient for BOTH types of prayer -- without it, prayer becomes rather pedantic and lifeless. Have any of you also found that to be true?

I've spent the better part of the last five years struggling to better understand prayer and to pray better. Where I've settled lately, though I'm not completely comfortable with it, is an illuminated* praying of the Lord's Prayer daily, accompanied by extemporaneous praying throughout the day.

*I use "illuminated" here in the same way we speak of beautifully embellished Scriptures as "illuminated." (Here's an example if I'm not communicating well: As I pray Jesus' words, I "illuminate" them with my own praises, concerns, and desires. From what I've read here, maybe you'd consider this a hybrid of the liturgical and extemporaneous styles of prayer.

definately true Chris - that's why silence for me is one of the best remedies. when it's pendantic and lifeless it's usually because i'm too full of me, and not of Him. silence, solitude and lectio are usually the only way 'out of that' mode. as i type this i'm convicting myself because i haven't spent time since easter in that type of prayer - just 'too busy', and things are lifeless. time for some solitude. need to rearrange my schedule.

"Illuminated" praying of the Lord's Prayer -- I've never heard it described that way before, Daniel. I like it.

I discovered and began "praying through" the Lord's Prayer some 15 years ago (i.e. considering it as more of a "prayer outline" than just a "scripted" prayer), and that's what first convinced me that praying for a solid hour actually WAS humanly possible! ;)

Heidi -- I like your angle on "silence". Have you blogged about this?

:) i haven't blogged because i am in fear of being too 'out there' for my husband's church. i can't seem to hold it in and police myself when i write, so i don't blog out of fear... sad i know. i am writing though, and am close to my first publication! i'm just tickled! thanks for the encouragement!

I hear God's Voice speaking through everyones words here. I have been struggling to pray for a while also. There is so much to say, and so little time to say it in, that I don't know where to start. Perhaps pre-scripted/ tried&true/ liturgical prayers would prime the pump, so to speak.
On another note, a college professor, trying to teach us about the Trinity, told us that quite often by seizing both ends of a paradox we can approach the truth: e.g.--God is One and Three. This is what we need to hear about prayer also. Liturgical and spontaneous prayers can be/need to be blended for a richer experience.

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