Common Prayer vs. Extemporaneous Prayer

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by Elizabethan Churchman, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Elizabethan Churchman

    Elizabethan Churchman Active Member

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    I just wanted to post this thread because one reason I became an Anglican is because of the tradition of Common Prayer, and I was reminded of that this Sunday morning. Growing up and through college (and probably not a few times in the future) I've attended services with mostly extemporaneous prayers. However, I've found that they can be divisive and perhaps one of the most decidedly anti-Catholic (good Catholic) elements of your typical Protestant worship service. These prayers seem fine as long as you isolate yourself from people who disagree with you on issues. Once you start attending worship services with Christians of other traditions, you realize that extemporaneous prayers are a source of division and tear apart the Body of Christ.

    Before explicating that, most Protestants are very insistent on extemporaneous prayer in worship services because they feel that prayer should be guided by the spirit towards the needs of the present congregation. On the surface, this seems like a legitimate concern. Shouldn't we pray for the needs of the congregation at the moment? Most would say yes, and the Book of Common Prayer allows for this in a couple of forms. Furthermore, there are also activities outside of the Common Worship service where we can bring some of these concerns before God. Also, some point out that most Common Prayers aren't drawn straight from the Bible as a unit. However, all this objection does is point out the need to keep Biblical language and doctrine foremost when coming up with a common liturgy.

    One thing that tears apart the body in extemporaneous prayers is the tendency to add in non-essential and perhaps even divisive doctrine into the prayer. This is what made me keenly aware of this problem in extemporaneous prayer. I attended an Evangelical Baptist University with Arminian tendencies (Liberty University) as a "Truly Reformed" Presbyterian (i.e., I was one of those guys that beat you with a Westminster Confession of Faith, but, seriously, I wasn't really that bad). When I decided to go there despite my theological misgivings, I decided I wanted to share in the common Christian life there and not isolate myself from my fellow believers more than necessary. However, I gradually became disenchanted over my couple of years there as extemporaneous prayers often offended my theological sensibilities. The person saying the prayer inserted Arminian doctrine about the atonement, some attacked "legalistic people" who believed the moral law was still applicable, or the prayer before the Sacrament (or the "ordinance" in Baptist phraseology) would deny any presence of Christ there at all. I found I couldn't really say "Amen" at the end of these prayers with a clean conscious. This disheartened me, and it happened somewhat regularly at convocation or the Wednesday night prayer services.

    Common Prayer, however, unites people with disparate theology by using language clearly warranted by the Bible to pray with one voice to God. Not just those in the congregation, but across a communion of Christians. We are at least attempting to do as Paul commanded us in I Cor. 1:10 and "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." While the Church is not all of one mind yet on many issues, we can at least try to raise our voices and hearts in a Common Prayer. If you want to get on your hobby horse, do it on your own time. I'll probably get on mine and we can argue about it together, but not when we worship God.

    Anglicans have retained this Catholic tradition, and it's perhaps the best tradition they've maintained. It allows for Christians of different viewpoints to pray together without fear that someone will try to get on their theological hobby horse. It allows us to raise a common voice to God with as united of a heart as sinful men can muster.
     
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  2. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    As I've mentioned in another thread, Mattins is a rarity now. But I have noticed that in some evangelical CofE churches, it has been replaced not by Eucharist, but by a "Morning Service". Indeed, in my own church on the first service of the month we have an "all age service" (without communion). Unless I'm on the sidesperson's rota, I avoid it, and I'm not alone. Whether the prayers are extemporaneous or not, I don't know. But it all comes across as improvised and formless.

    On a related note, I've only once been to a Methodist Sunday service and I was not impressed. It was a hymn sandwich and the prayers were definitely extemporaneous and the worse for that. As for the sermon, the phrase, "never mind the quality, feel the width" comes to mind.
     
  3. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    I'm glad to have found this forum.

    On the point at hand, I find that the Anglican liturgy not only allows me to pray scriptural prayers BUT also ministers to me. This I've come to realize in recent years.

    I've spent 10 years in the pentecostal movement, with the first 2 years quite exciting. I later became worn out and the prayers became that of desperation and trying to change God's mind.

    With the liturgy, I find myself letting God do as he wills. I also get an opportunity to pray about needs beyond myself and my situation.
     
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  4. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    beautiful insight!
     

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