Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Case for Liturgy

Why Liturgy Rather Than a Service of Spontaneous Prayer?
posted February 25, 2012

Why does our church engage in worship using a liturgy of written prayers handed down and compiled in a Prayer Book?  Isn’t spontaneous prayer a much better way to connect with God?  These are excellent questions which deserve thoughtful answers.

Our Sunday morning worship follows a pattern of liturgical prayer which is two thousand years old.  Our liturgy seeks to touch all the bases of how we relate to God through confession, thanksgiving, praise, petition, intercession, and adoration.  In the creeds we are reminded of the nature of the Holy Trinity (our namesake) and what each of these three persons of God does in our lives.  In the confession we are called to reflect upon our sin and to confess to God and to amend our ways.  In the Eucharistic prayer we recall what Jesus did to redeem us from sin and how he makes a covenant with us between God and man.  Holy Communion allows us a time to partake of Jesus just as the apostles did at the Last Supper.  Our hymns and songs (some traditional, others contemporary) contain words and music which seek to engage us with God in his many aspects.  The lectionary of three Bible readings, Old Testament, New Testament Epistles, and Gospels, seeks to walk us through the entire Bible so that we don’t pick and choose our scripture readings based on the personal preferences of a pastor.

Each of the seasons of the church which we celebrate reminds us of a different aspect of God’s work among his people.  We have Advent for a time of waiting and anticipating the LORD’s coming to us.  We celebrate Christmas for the incarnation of God coming to be man.  Epiphany is a day and a season for the revelation of God to all mankind and the need for evangelism to proclaim his Gospel.  Lent is a time for penitence and a turning back to God from our sin.  Holy Week reminds us of Jesus’ passion and death.  Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.   Pentecost shows us the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit with us.  Other seasons and feasts of the church are there to remind us of each part of our faith, or notable saints who  have served Christ by their lives and deaths.

We are not slaves to our liturgy.  It is an aide to worship, not the ultimate end to worship.  There are plenty of times when we can and should spontaneously pray to God in our own words, both in our worship services, and in our private prayer times. The liturgy reminds us of each aspect of God and our faith in him.  It frees our personal and private prayer times to engage God fully in all of his many facets.

Our liturgical prayer is not a hindrance to personal spontaneous prayer, but rather it enables us to get the most out our of improvisational prayer time with God.  It also helps to guide us so that our prayer is not ruled by our personal preferences and choices, but rather by the time-honored way that men and women of God have focused their prayer life over the entire history of the church.  The Holy Spirit works through both liturgy and through spontaneous prayer.  Using both we seek to tap all of God's resources for our worship services.

This article will appear on the new Holy Trinity Church Website (temporary website here) which is in development. -PD
(Picture by Raymond Dague)


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