Thursday, November 13, 2014

Shaping the Prayers...

Shaping the Prayers of the People, The Art of Intercession by Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher offers many ideas and suggestions for both clergy and lay people who have the responsibility of preparing the prayers that are used in the worship services at their particular churches. Both Wells and Kocher have spent time planning and preparing specific prayers for use in congregations in both Duke University Chapel and the surrounding churches and neighborhoods in that part of North Carolina. Kocher mentions how God's people have been "insisting," that they needed a book like this and the pressure, almost nagging, she says, finally brought them to the task of improving worship services and especially the prayers of the people. Wells reminds readers that the ones who pray, who intercede for all who are present, know it is a duty to plan and prepare their prayers. He wants this book to show that intercession is not just a duty, but a joy, and he and Kocher are eager to explain why, and how to live it.

 Published by Eerdmans, more information can be found at www.eerdmans.com. To begin, Kocher and Wells give a little history of American churches, and how prayers were put together. Sometimes it was a Pastoral Prayer given by clergy, sometimes prayers were woven together from "revivalist traditions," and sometimes lay people were encouraged to just put together the cares and concerns of the members of the congregation. Among all the churches, there are many different styles of worship. Wells and Kocher are accepting differences and looking at them as opportunities for those intercessors who lead prayers to think carefully about what they are doing.

Their book has two parts: theory and practice. The authors say it is designed to answer the question: "Teach us to pray," and intercessors will take from it what they find helpful and that's good. The authors are offering "grace and joy" in planning prayers, "not new laws or rote" on how to do it. But I think that in the first five chapters, they cover just about every angle of how to plan and pray as intercessors. It shows, as they begin with words like: propose, suggest, explore, choose. And they remind us that Jesus described prayer as: "Ask, Seek, and Knock."

In the second part, Kocher and Wells offer samples of prayers under three headings: Seasons, Ordinary Time, and Occasions. Some of these prayers go back many years and some have been more recently prayed, remembered, and shared. These prayers take us through the church year and there are brief paragraphs suggesting how they might be used. The final two pages are a Checklist for Preparing the Prayers of the People that intercessors may find helpful.

---Lois Sibley,
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