Currently, I am involved in a non-denominational church. Yet I grew up and at one point served in the United Methodist Church, whose prayer roots I continue to learn about. As a seminary student and prayer missionary, I am interested in learning about prayer traditions of the many branches of the Christian Church. It’s fascinating to me. I think we can learn a lot about biblically based prayer from Christian history and different church traditions.
When I was growing up in the Methodist church, we celebrated Communion on the first Sunday of the month. (Not enough, in my opinion.) Back then, before the days of overhead projectors, we used hymnals to read the Communion liturgy. By the age of five, I had it memorized – not because I was trying to, but simply because I had repeated it so many times. What I never appreciated, until now, were the biblical roots of that liturgy.
On Sunday, I opened my email to find this message from Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, who is president of Asbury Theological Seminary where I attend as a student. I am getting ready to take a class this spring on the Psalms, so this particular article caught my eye:
The Grammar of Repentance: Psalm 38
In this article, Dr. Tennent talks about the importance of repentance in Christian life. He also traces the roots of the typical Methodist Communion liturgy to many of the Psalms, as well as Isaiah.
And he says something that really stood out for me: ” … the Psalms have always been the prayer book for the people of God.”
With my passion for prayer, I am more excited than ever to study the Psalms this spring.
Even though liturgy and hymnals don’t seem to be used as much in the church as they used to be, it might be an interesting family activity (or church class) to look at some of the words of earlier church practices, trace the biblical roots, and pray those prayers as so many people have done across the ages.
If you are curious about the liturgy referred to by Dr. Tennent, here is the full text:
A Service of Word and Table IV
As I was reading over this text, so familiar when I was young, I realized that even in traditional services where hymnals are still used for Communion, often the prayers of confession and pardon are left out – probably to cut down on time. Yet that means we’re missing out on this rich tradition of prayer.
Instead of removing these prayers from the Communion liturgy, it might be helpful even to incorporate these prayers in other aspects of church life. They are great prayers.
I am only familiar with the United Methodist Communion liturgy, referred to in the article by Dr. Tennent. However, it would be interesting to look at the equivalent prayers and liturgy in the history of other branches of the Church.
Does your family or church pray any of the older liturgical prayers, or pray from the Psalms? What are your prayer traditions and practices?