Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Value of Communal Public Prayer And the Public Reading of Scripture - e*r Week 2 Discussion Question -

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

“This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls…” [1]

The whole idea of ordering my life around ancient paths appeals to me. I like the rhythm and the discipline that they offer me, the chance to plumb the depths that gave the ancients staying power when trials and tribulations came…the types of which I have never experienced. Yet, I long for the depth of character that they produced in those who have gone before, that anointed them to create lasting patterns of worship that draw all to Jesus.

Robert Webber asks how we can “participate in a present spirituality that is rooted in past events and anticipates a future event.” He answers that we do it “through a worship that continually orders the pattern of our spirituality into a remembrance of God’s saving deeds and the anticipation of the rule of God over all creation.” [2]

The public reading of Scriptures is an important aspect of remembering God’s redemptive deeds of the past and anticipating that redemption breaking into our day as well. We bring glory to God when we celebrate those deeds.[3] In a contemporary worship service, I can envision a Scripture passage being read, proclaiming God’s saving work. Next, I see someone coming forward to share a testimony of God’s current saving work in their own life, revealing the “now” of the passage as well as the “things to come” as we believe God to continue His acts of redemption.

Communal Public Prayer is another powerful means to worship that has been used throughout the ages. I love the simple yet deep prayer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”[4]. I was first introduced to this prayer when I attended an art symposium in Austin, TX last April. If my memory serves me correctly, first we recited it together and then we sang it together. The whole experience, the bringing of this ancient prayer into my present via word and then song, impacted me deeply and stirred up a hunger in me for more of these deep, rich, profound prayers found in the old ways.

I am challenged by the idea, however, that I would have the same potential to write something as lasting as, say, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” [5] In that, I am soberly reminded of my responsibility as a present-day worship artisan to be mindful and intentional in creating thoughtful, accurate songs, prayers, liturgies, etc. using the enduring truths of the Word of the Ancient of Days in the event that they become an “ancient” source of worship for those still yet to come.

1. Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
2. Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 27.
3, ibid, 29.
4. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship History, 16.
5. ibid, 17.

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