Reason 3 to Pray “Set Prayers” – God Hears Us

Every day John and I say set prayers out loud together from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.  A good reason for doing this, as opposed to free-forming our own prayers, is because we forget God’s love and God’s instructions. Set prayer from God’s Word reminds us what God promises and what God asks. Next, this discipline is servant behavior and helps us ‘take on the mind of Jesus.’ (Phil 2:5).  And the third reason is – God hears us.

The scriptures overflow with examples of people crying out. The slaves in Egypt cried out. Noah cried out. Hannah cried out. Job cried out.  Apostles cried out. And God heard them and God answered them.

John points out that when we read set prayers, we are adding our voice to the voice of many others who are offering the same prayers all over the world, crying out together. This puts our lives into the context of the wider church and reminds us that we are part of the overarching bigger story; we are a part of God’s life.

God hears us and remembers us as God’s beloved people.

The people who cried out in the Bible were not always answered in the way they expected or had asked for.  But they were heard. This fact is reinforced for me when I know I am praying the same words they said; this doesn’t happen when I am making up my own prayers.

But will we hear God?

We are sometimes prone to identifying culturally dictated impulses or personal rationalizations as something “God said to me.” Through the set prayers, especially those taken directly from Scripture, I come to know what God has promised and what God’s “voice” sounds like.  I am less prone to put my own words into God’s mouth. And many times the answer I need is right there in the prayers.

In Conclusion: Set prayers provide a frame you can depend on.

It may seem that praying set words is shallow or doesn’t take enough creative effort or is too simple. However, when I am focused on the tasks of the day, or trying to sort out my relationships, I can easily forget what is important.

Here is a sampling of important reminders that are included in the four Episcopal Daily Devotions:

The morning prayers remind us that we have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection.

At noon we are reminded that our blessed Savior stretched out his loving arms on the cross for us.

In the early evening we reflect that it is not ourselves we proclaim but Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake.

At the close of the day we are reminded that the Lord is merciful and almighty and can drive away all the snares of the enemy.

These things are a frame we can live in and depend on. They are true. They convey God’s love for us. They are God’s answers to our prayers.

Reason 2 to Pray “Set Prayers”- Obedience

Two or three times a day John and I say set prayers out loud together from the Episcopalian’s Book of Common Prayer.  Reason one for doing this (see previous post) was because we forget- we forget God’s love and God’s instructions. Prayer from God’s word can remind us in ways that prayers we make up about our current concerns can’t.

One of the reactions we get is: “I pray often, but don’t feel a need to be legalistic about it.”

Reason two: Prayer is servant behavior.

“To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Isaiah (45:23 NRSV) This command is very clear and doesn’t appear to be optional. Scripture leaves us with little doubt that Jesus is Lord and is to be acknowledged as Lord.

Paul reinforces this message in Philippians (2:10-11) and Romans (14:11). The confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is part of our set prayers; this recognition establishes our human status as servant. We are not to be our own Lord. We are subject to the Lord our God.

But what does this mean exactly? Philippians gives us some instructions.  “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (2:5) and “(He) emptied himself taking on the form of a slave.” (2:7) and “Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.” (2:3)

We find daily set prayer a way to remember and fulfill these instructions.

When we use set prayers from scripture, saying out loud the word of God, we are “taking on the mind of Jesus.”  As we repeat the words we remember. We remember who we are in relation to Jesus and our neighbors; and we remember God’s instructions about those relationships. We are reminded again who God is and how Jesus served with uncompromising humility.

We find it is a light yoke and one that gets easier to bear with practice.

Reason 1 to Pray “Set Prayers”: We don’t get it

Is saying the set prayers from the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer boring? This is like asking if marriage is boring…maybe sometimes, but then it’s boring in a good way, and sometimes we find it anything but boring! The basic framework for our marriage is our prayer life, and even though prayer is emotionally grounding, that is not the only reason to do it.

Here is the first of three reasons prayer is much more profound than a balm to help you sleep at night:

We just don’t get it

From the very beginning we haven’t gotten it. When God walked with the first humans in the early evening breeze, it was the sweetest time of day in the most luscious garden imaginable, but that wasn’t enough for us.

In spite of the perfect setting and knowing God was there with them, people forgot what God imparted to them on those walks. They forgot both God’s love and God’s instructions. The result of this forgetting is powerlessness and severe jeopardy. I know this from my own experience and because the same story, different characters, is repeated over and over in Scripture. And just understanding the story doesn’t help me remember it.

Scripture uses repetition to help us remember.  God begs us over and over in various ways to listen. God formed an entire people to serve as an example. Remembering the overarching story of their life with God was perhaps the most important part of being an example. They remembered this out loud together by repeating the story at festivals. Set prayers help me remember this same story.

God sent us prophets who used familiar bits of scripture, poems and prayers as lectures and warnings not to forget the big picture.  The prophets also begged us to cry out to God for help. An entire book of Scripture, the Psalms, instructs us in remembering and crying out.  I doubt the psalms were given to us only to be read once and then put away as irrelevant.

But we rarely call out to God in this way unless we are really suffering like Job or Hannah.  The set prayers use the Psalms. The first words I pray each day are from Psalm 51. “Open my lips, Oh Lord….” Reminding me I need God even to speak and that there is a larger story that my life fits into. The story of what God did for us and will do for us, most profoundly in Christ.

When God came to walk with us again, to tell us directly the good news of God’s love for us, did Jesus have instant mind-meld with the Father? No, Scripture tells us Jesus regularly turned to prayer.

Jesus thought that prayer was important enough that he gave us specific instructions about it and a specific set prayer.  Jesus thought that prayer was powerful enough that it was the very last thing he did on the cross. And Jesus thought crying out through scripture was worthy enough that his last prayer was also recognizable set prayer, a psalm.

I hope you will consider joining us in daily set prayer.

Blessings, Kathleen

 

Daily Prayer: A Frame for Life and Love

April 14, 2015

John spoke at a Prayer Summit yesterday that was organized by the All Nations Church in Lake View Terrace, CA. It remined me that when I travel with John I frequently get questions from the wives of students or faculty about our marriage.

The most crucial component of our marriage, it’s basic framework, is our prayer life. It is within our prayer format that we read the Bible together.

Several times a day we say set prayers out loud together from the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer. The Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families has bits that repeat the same scripture or words everyday- that’s the “set” part. There are also suggestions like “a canticle may be used” or “prayers may be offered for ourselves and others.”

It is here that we insert a chapter or so from the Bible. We will soon start reading the set lessons from the lectionary every week! We hope you will read along with us.Our ponderings will be on this blog.

We’ve had various reactions to this set prayer and readings habit:

“Isn’t it boring?”  “For me, making up prayers for each situation is more meaningful.  “I often pray, but don’t feel a need to be legalistic about it.”  “What a cool thing for a couple to do, I wish we had the time.”

Yes, sometimes it is boring, and we don’t have time. Or the words don’t fit the situation. It’s especially hard during a spat and it therefore doesn’t seem cool to have to come together to pray.  But we do it anyway and prayer has thus become a precious foundation for our marriage.

Why?

Even though I find it both emotionally grounding and a great bonding routine, even though it can set the tone for the day and help me sleep at night, the most important reasons we have for praying are much more profound.

Watch here for upcoming blog posts on three profound reasons we need to regularly pray the “set prayers.”

John’s two papers from the Prayer Summit: “The Psalms as an Invitation into a Spiral Relationship with God” and “Praying For and Against Others” are posted under the Other Papers tab.

DSCF4397At our wedding on the beach. 12/10/10