Prayer has, throughout the ages, been something of a challenge for people both young and old. In fact, upon discovering Jesus during a time of prayer, Jesus’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Is there a right or wrong way to pray? Is one way better than another? The answer to those questions is both simple, and confounding: it depends. If your main goal is to use prayer as a means to give Jesus your “Santa list”, then you probably have a misconception about prayer. Brian Zahnd, pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO, sums it up well when he says this: “The primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we think God ought to do, but to be properly formed.”1 When we internalize this truth, then we begin to view prayer in a totally different light.
This week we’re going to look at using a Prayer Liturgy. Put simply, a praying a prayer liturgy is simply using a list of prayers from church history in place of our own. When we do this, we allow the prayers of those who have gone before us to shape us, allowing God to form us into what God wants us to be, rather than using prayer for our own ends. It may seem strange to pray words written by someone else; however, as you pray through the liturgy you will begin to appreciate the prayers and see them becoming the cries of your heart. Keep in mind that there are sections of the liturgy that are for your own prayers, making this a mixture of the prayers of others and your own. There is also a contemplative time set aside, a time where you can simply sit quietly and be still in God’s presence, letting your heart voice its feelings that go beyond words. There’s no set time limit for the liturgy, but I’ve found that it usually takes anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the time spent in contemplation. So, without further ado, here it is:
A Liturgy for Prayer (Adapted from Brian Zahnd’s book Water To Wine2.)
Father God, creator of heaven and earth; God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God of Israel; God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; True and Living God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: have mercy and hear my prayer.
Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, amen. Oh God, make speed to save me. Oh Lord, make haste to help me. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, amen.
The Jesus Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Confession of Sin
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me, that I may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name, amen.
Prayer for Change
Holy God, you know the disorder of my sinful life. Set straight my crooked heart and bend my will to love your goodness and your glory through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Jesus Prayer
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even through I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all fo the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “You are my fortress and my refuge, my God in whom I will trust.”
Prayers for Family (Your own prayers)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He pardons all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with loving kindness and mercy. He satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, holy is your Name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever more, amen.
The Jesus Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer Expanded
Our Father, Holy Father, Abba Father in the heavens: hallowed, holy, and sacred be your name. From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts, the whole earth is full of your glory. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Your government come, your politics be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Your reign and rule come, your plans and purposes be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we be an anticipation of the age to come. May we embody the reign of Christ here and now. Give us day by day our daily bread. Provide for the poor among us. As we seek first your kingdom and your justice, may all we need be provided for us. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Transform us by the Holly Spirit into a forgiving community of forgiven sinners. Lead us not into trouble, trial, tribulation or temptation. Be mindful of our frame; we are but dust, we can only take so much. Lead us out of the wilderness into the promised land that flows with milk and honey. Lead us out of the badlands into resurrection country. Deliver us from evil and the evil one. Save us from Satan, the accuser and the adversary so that no weapon formed against us shall prosper; so that every tongue that rises against us in accusation you will condemn; so that every fiery dart of the wicked one is extinguished by the shield of faith; so that as we submit to you and resist the devil, the devil flees; so that as we draw near to Jesus Christ lifted up, his cross becomes for us that axis of love expressed in forgiveness, that refounds the world. And the devil, who became the false ruler of the fallen world, is driven out from among us. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and glory, forever, amen.
Your own Prayers (needs, requests, prayers for others, etc.)
Contemplative time (sitting quietly with God, allowing your heart and your feelings to speak)
Prayer to the Crucified Christ
Lord Jesus, you stretched out your arms of love upon the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: so clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name, amen.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall in heritage the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Prayer for Peace
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near; grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom, though Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console, to be understood as to understand, and to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardonerd, and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life, amen.
Prayer for Grace
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserver us with your mighty power that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; And in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, I, your unworthy servant, give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving kindness to me and to all whom you have made. I bless you for my creation, perseveration, and all the blessing of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, I pray, give me such an awareness of your mercies, that with a truly thankful heart I may show forth your praise, not only with my lips, but also with my life, by giving up myself to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all of my days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages, amen.
Prayer for Mercy
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Confession of the Mystery
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Prayer of Discipleship
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, teach me your ways.
1 Brian Zahnd, Water to Wine: Some of My Story (St. Joseph, MO: Spello Press 2016), 74.
2 Ibid., 79-88.