Monday, October 31, 2011

Pieces of prayer that should be memorized

As Episcopalians, we have a Book of Common Prayer that lies at the center of our spiritual lives. It is a great resource, and a treasure for the spiritual life. In its pages can be found an entire school of prayer, and an entire theology of God, the church, and human nature.

Using the BCP, we are assured that our prayers speak with the voice of the whole church, and aren't simply the whim and desire of the individual priest. We speak on behalf of the church, after all, and not from the sinfulness or agenda of our own hearts.

The BCP allows us to read or chant many of the prayers from the text directly. There are times, however, when I have found it good to have certain prayers memorized. Mostly this is for pastoral reasons, when the need to make eye contact or appropriate gesture would make it difficult to be staring down into a book.

Here are the prayers that I have memorized, or am working on memorizing:

  • The Collect for Purity "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open..." (which I pray facing the altar, in orans)
  • Absolution at the end of General Confession "Almighty God have mercy..." BCP p. 360
  • The "Standard" blessing at the end of Holy Eucharist (required in Rite I, optional but typical in Rite II) "The peace of God which passeth all understanding..." BCP p. 339. Note that the Book of Occasional Services contains seasonal blessings and Lenten prayers over the people.
  • I discovered during CPE that I needed to memorize these two prayers from ministry at the time of death, found on pp. 464-5: The prayer called the Profiscere: "Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world..." and the Commedatory Prayer: "Into your hands, O merciful Savior..." 
  • Also, if you do a healing liturgy, you would benefit from memorizing whatever prayer you will pray while laying hands on a person or anointing them. 
Anything else, other learned clergy?

1 comment:

  1. I believe it was Terry Anderson who, when taken hostage in 1985 for over seven years, said one of the documents he survived on was the Daily Office (specifically Morning Prayer Rite II). He had this memorized.

    I know it sounds excessive, but having Compline memorized has been a critical part of my daily health regimen. We pray Compline every evening at our youth summer camp and I encourage the youth to try to memorize it as a spiritual discipline.

    Other important things to memorize... hmmmmmm... at least two-three offertory sentences for each service, the prayer for blessing incense (if that's your cup of... um... incense), 23rd, 121st, 51st Psalms, Holy Baptism: "N., you are sealed...", at least one prayer for birthdays, SOME sort of grace for meals, prayer of St. Crysostom.

    And in preparation for seminary my mentor told me, 1) put a BCP by the phone, on your phone with an APP., or somewhere handy because people are going to immediately ask you begin to pray for/with them, if they haven't already 2) know the four parts of of a collect and you can pray anything if you know our tradition does a) bidding, b) invocation, c) petition, d) doxology. (speaking of which... again, my mentor was helpful in suggesting I always ask folks that for which they would like prayer).

    That's my 4 cents!