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Forms Of Prayer
Liturgical prayers are crafted primarily in one of three forms: the collect, the litany, and bidding prayers. These prayers have a long and venerable history, and are easily adapted for use. The key to all of these forms is that they are designed to be participatory in nature. Liturgical prayer at its best involves the whole congregation.
The Collect is the common form for prayer across all traditions. Though its form is not often known as the “collect-form,” its five-part structure (see below) is easily recognized as the standard form for most prayers. The meeting of the Latin collectio is not certain. It means literally “assembly,” but it may refer to either a prayer in which devotional themes are assembled, or to any prayer that is spoken when the congregation is assembled. Both interpretations are complementary, and throw light on the function of the prayer.
There are standard collects in many liturgical traditions, often appearing as transitions between units of worship. In free church and directory of worship traditions in which there is a “Pastoral Prayer,” (or several such prayers) the collect has also prevailed as the guiding form. As the pastor crafts each petition, the collect form gives shape and unity to prayer. The collect follows a five-fold form:
2. A relative clause.
3. A petition.
4. A statement of purpose.
5. A conclusion (usually in the form of a doxology).
In its purist form, the collect is one sentence, expressing a single petition and theme followed by a vigorous “AMEN” by the entire congregation:
“Almighty God, (invocation), Lord of heaven and earth, (relative clause), pour out your blessings, we pray, upon this land, and give us a fruitful harvest; (petition), that we, constantly receiving your gifts, may always give thanks to you everywhere and in all things; (statement of purpose), through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (conclusion)
Example of a Collect-Type Prayer (adapted)
M O God Our Creator, you have graced us with the gift of life and a world to live in. Empower and strengthen the witness of your church that, true to its calling, it may proclaim your radical and boundless love, in word and deed. We pray in Jesus’ name.
M O God, Source of our life, you have adopted us in the waters of baptism and made us your own in love. We pray that we may embrace our lives and the lives of others with courage and compassion, unafraid of joy and pain, sickness and health. May your care be made known in our care. We pray in Jesus’ name.
M God of Justice, you revealed your power in the servanthood of Jesus. May those who govern the nations use their authority in wisdom, kindness and peace. Awaken in all who govern a thirst for justice that embodies your care for this earth and the human community. We pray in Jesus’ name.
From the Greek litaneia derived from litaneuein, meaning “to pray,” the litany is a prayer where fixed responses are made by the people to a series of short biddings or petitions said or sung by a leader.
Leader: For the peace of the whole world, for the well being of the holy Church of God,and for the unity of all, let us pray to God.
People: God, hear our prayer.
Leader: For the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority, let us pray to God.
People: God, hear our prayer.
The litany is sometimes used in adoration and thanksgiving, but is primarily used in intercessory prayer.
The bidding prayer is a series of invitations to pray about particular concerns, followed by silence, and then concluded with a collect and Amen. The sequence might be as follows:
The leader says “Let us pray for …” (the sick).
A time of silence prayer follows in which the congregation offers personal prayers for people with that need either generally or by name.
The leader then prays a summary prayer or collect. This collect may conclude with “Lord, in your mercy” which is then followed by the congregation, “Hear our prayer,”
or, the leader may simply offer a collect ending with “Amen.”