Posted by: deerharas | September 21, 2007

My version of liturgical prayer

I just got back from lunch with one of my Staceys.  There are two of them … two of my very best friends with the same first and middle names.  As if that wasn’t enough, I now have a new Staci, although her real name is Anastacia so thankfully she doesn’t spell her version of Staci the same way.  Anyway, lunches with OKC-Stacey (as differentiated from Houston-Stacey) are precious times, filled with all sorts of unloading and mutual encouragement.  Oftentimes she speaks wise, wise words into my life be it about God, family, ministry or boys.  (I’m getting a little old to be calling them boys, but it just sounds so weird to say men.)  Today was no exception, and I am once again thankful for her council.

So there’s OKC-Stacey, who I met through my old church and have grown closer to despite our now differing bodies of believers.  There’s Houston-Stacey, who was my RA, then fellow RA and now still incredibly close friend despite our 400+ mile separation.  And then there’s Henderson Hills-Staci, who I am just now beginning to know on a deeper level and have the joy and privilege of teaching FLOCK (Sunday School) with a week from Sunday. 

Our FLOCK recently began a teaching team, which consists of certain members occasionally taking on the lesson instead of our usual teacher.  Staci and I have both recently felt a burdening for our FLOCK in regard to prayer, both praying more for one another, but even more so with one another.  We volunteered to teach a Sunday morning lesson on prayer with the hope that it would birth a regular set aside time of prayer for our group.  That Sunday is fast approaching. 

But back to OKC-Stacey.  A few weeks ago we met for Friday lunch at Irma’s, and the topic of prayer came up.  She mentioned a book she was currently reading called Mudhouse Sabbath.  Lauren Winner, who converted to Christianity from Judaism, outlines several different spiritual disciplines through her own unique perspective.  In her chapter on prayer, she talks about the benefits of liturgical prayer, not as the only kind of prayer, but as a valuable aspect of it.  She recounts memories of her grandfather (I think it was her grandfather … this is what I remember from Stacey; I have not yet read the book.) and the end of his life living with Alzheimer’s.  She explained that even when the disease had stolen the names of his family members from his memory, as they joined together in worship he could somehow recite the liturgical prayers that had become a part of him from years and years of repetition.  I thought about the power in that.  I thought about how when I struggle to pray, to focus, to utter words that sometimes just won’t come, how powerful it would be to set my mind on the words of saints gone before, or Scripture, or hymns and make those my prayer.

This past week Henderson Hills-Staci and I met to discuss our lesson, and she brought along a transcript of a Piper sermon on prayer.  In true preacher fashion, he offers up some alliteration to further illustrate his points, referencing two types of prayer as “Free and Formed.”  While encouraging free flowing prayers of the heart, he also goes on to say, “I plead with you not to think you are so spiritually deep or resourceful or rich or disciplined that you can do without the help of forms.”  Whether it be through lists, Scripture, or books, we can all benefit from hearing and praying the prayers of yesterday.

Because of my church background and upbringing, I haven’t had much exposure to liturgical prayer.  The closest thing I can liken to it from my own background is the singing of hymns.  When I first heard about Lauren Winner’s grandfather, my mind immediately went to hymns.  Other than Scripture, no words remain with me quite like the beautifully crafted lines of old hymns.  I grew up on the cusp of transition from “hymnal worship” to “praise and worship” at my church.  I feel sorry for my brother who won’t have the same rich theology ingrained in him, just because “modern worship” is more popular now.  I am in no way against modern worship; I’m all for singing a “new song.”  I just wish there was more diversity in worship … psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).  I worry that we are losing much of the depth in worship, the depth so artistically conveyed in many hymns.  There is a movement (I guess you would call it that) called Indelible Grace whose goal is to “help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace.”  A few of my favorites contribute to the albums (Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken) and they have introduced me to lines I would not otherwise know such as “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee.  I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depth’s its flow, may richer fuller be.”

Although not a part of Indelible Grace (but part of the Square Peg Alliance with many of the same contributors to IG) Jill Phillips does a beautiful job of hymn preservation on her album “Kingdom Come.”  Last night as I was listening to her rendition and remaking of “Have Thine Own Way,” I thought to myself that this was my liturgical prayer for now.  Perhaps you will pray it with me.

Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. 

Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.


Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Search me and try me, Master today. 

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now, as in Thy presence humbly I bow.


Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Wounded and weary, help me I pray. 

Power all power surely is Thine.  Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.


Have Thine own way, Lord.  Have Thine own way.  Hold o’er my being absolute sway. 

Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me.

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