Congregational Prayer, 11/29/2020

Part of my duties as an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America is to assist the pastor in leading worship on a rotating schedule with the other elders. When it is time for the scripture readings, the elder reads, then leads in a congregational prayer that culminates in the Lord’s Prayer. Then, after the Lord’s Prayer and a hymn, the elder introduces the offering.

My approach to composing the prayer is to take the prayer from the LCMS Lutheran Church’s three-year series prayers for a given Sunday and make necessary adaptations. As a PCA church in the South, our congregation has communion rather more infrequently than many PCA churches and, since the LCMS liturgy assumes weekly communion, sometimes I have to make adjustments to remove statements that anticipate or link to the supper. I usually link these to other means of grace such as prayer or preaching of the word. I will sometimes change content for other reasons, such as to emphasize a different theological theme or to remove something that is so relentlessly Lutheran that it would be jarring to our congregation. These posts will present the prayer as I have used it in actual worship. I’m composing this explanation in early 2022, but below is the first prayer I led as a new elder. At that point I was still reading the “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer” at the end of each clause. Later, I dropped this since it is more appropriate for when a congregation joins in that part. Ideally, every church would have a lectionary and follow the church year so that prayer, hymns, and readings can be coherent, so I understand if this looks a little bit disjointed from the perspective of other traditions. Obviously, the topic of the LCMS prayers goes along with the readings for that Sunday and the liturgical season. I confess that our tradition is a little impoverished in this respect, but there are some serious reasons why historically the Presbyterians took a different path and I’ve promised to uphold the peace and purity of this tradition. Anyway, I hope these may be helpful:

God, our Father in heaven, look with mercy on us, your needy children on earth, and grant us grace that your holy name be hallowed by us and by all the world through the pure and true teaching of your word and the fervent love shown forth in our lives. Graciously turn from us all false doctrine and evil living whereby your precious name is blasphemed and profaned. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

May your kingdom come to us and expand. Bring all transgressors and those who are blinded and bound in the devil’s kingdom to know Jesus Christ, your son, by faith that the number of Christians may be increased. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Strengthen us by your spirit according to your will, both in life and in death, in the midst of both good things and evil things, that our own wills may be crucified daily and sacrificed to your good and gracious will. Into your merciful hands we commend:

Those with health needs: [Names Redacted]

Those with other needs: [Names Redacted]

We commend these and all who are in need, praying for them at all times that your will be done, Lord, in your mercy.

Grant us our daily bread, preserve us from greed and selfish cares, and help us trust in you to provide for all our needs. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us so that our hearts may be at peace and may rejoice in a good conscience before you, and that no sin may ever frighten or alarm us. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lead us not into temptation, O Lord, but help us by your spirit to subdue our flesh, to turn from the world and its ways, and to overcome the devil with all of his devious and cunning strategies. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

And lastly, O heavenly Father, deliver us from all evil of both body and soul, now and forever. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We trust, O Lord, in your great mercy to hear and answer us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord who taught us to pray… [Lord’s Prayer]

The Electoral College

If you don’t like the electoral college it may partly be because you are WEIRD – western, educated, industrialized, rich (by world standards), and democratic. This means that in a red state, your values likely differ from a majority of your fellow state citizens and that your perspective differs from the democracy-phobic founders who put the electoral college in place to prevent straight up democracy that would negate the will of rural states in favor of national rule. In the 2016 election, even though he had fewer votes overall, Trump won a majority of votes in 2,626 counties to Hillary’s 487. From a more localized perspective, it would be strange for someone who has the support of so many counties to not be the winner.

We have given so much power over our lives over to the executive branch bureaucracy that it is hard for us to imagine that local rule is more important or that it is important to ensure that all *kinds* of people have an impact on the national election no matter how many people represent the “kind.” So many Americans are aligned with the values of professor Netflix and the national news media that they are disconnected from their neighbors and care more about the national will and the national historical story than the local- the electoral college seems like a quaint barrier to an unqualified good, democracy. But democracy is a dangerous form of government for minorities (two wolves and a sheep voting for what’s for supper) and fear of it is what drove the way American government was designed, to put checks on majority rule locally, to completely negate the tyranny of high-population centers nationally through the electoral college, and to only allow state legislators to elect senators. That last protection was chipped away by the 17th amendment. The electoral college is one of the few protections left.