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Part V, Crafting Liturgical Prayer, Types of Public Prayer: Adoration and Thanksgiving

Praise has two qualities:

1. Unconditioned praise (adoration). This is praise that is conditioned by no prior action from God – praise for God in and of God’s-self.  The focus is on God and on God’s unique and wonderful identity. This includes qualities belonging to God such as nurturance, holiness, beauty, strength, etc. These qualities call forth metaphors for God such as creator, redeemer, savior, father, mother, Lord, sustainer, guide, healer, etc.

2. Conditioned praise (thanksgiving). Thanksgiving connects what we know of God from our past to what we experience in daily living today.  It is rooted in anamnesis, which is a particularly strong and dynamic form of communal remembrance. Thanksgiving always recalls God’s mighty acts in the past in order to make them alive and present in the present. And it always places what we remember in relation to where and who we are now.

Forms of Thanksgiving.

1. Non-sacramental Form. Although this prayer might be offered at any point in worship, it is usually associated with the Lord’s Table, and is best done during a portion of worship in which Communion is usually celebrated. Here I will be suggesting a form for thanksgiving when Holy Communion is not celebrated. This prayer is often associated with the Offertory in the non-sacramental Liturgy of the Word.

The collect form is best, modified (for prayers of thanksgiving) by an introductory dialogue.

Consider prefacing payers of thanksgiving with the traditional dialogue from the great prayer of Thanksgiving:

L: The Lord be with you
P: And also with you
L: Lift up your hearts
P: We lift them up to the Lord
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
P: It is right to give our thanks and praise

or the abbreviated form:

L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
P: It is right to give our thanks and praise

Follow this with an invocation and relative clause. For instance:

Almighty and merciful God (invocation)
from whom comes all good and perfect gift, (relative clause)

Followed by a list of 1st person plural adorations and statements of thanksgiving, which remember God’s grace in the past and place that grace into relationship with the present. For instance:

We praise you for your mercies,
for your goodness that has created us,
your grace that has sustained us,
your discipline that has corrected us,
your patience that has borne with us,
and your love that has redeemed us.
We give thanks for your creation,
for the joy of living and the beauty of this day.
We thank you for your redeeming power,
which parted the Red Sea and brought us out of Egypt,
which gave to us Jesus Christ who died on a Cross and rose triumphant from the dead.
which gives us new life, freedom, and hope even now.

End with a result clause and conclusion (perhaps doxological) If a prayer after the collection of the offering, the proper result of thanksgiving might be to offer up our lives to God.

Because of your great mercy and love we offer our lives to you to be your servants and to show forth your praise each day (result clause)
through Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory now and forever, Amen. (conclusion)

B. Sacramental Form: The Eucharistic Prayer

The form of this prayer has been one of the most disputed and well-honed elements of theology in all of church history, and the Eucharistic Prayer remains the great prayer of the church universal. Adherence as much as possible to this form shows one’s awareness that worship is always done in the communion of saints past, present, and future. If/when crafting Eucharistic prayers, it is crucial to include the following elements if possible.

                   1. introductory dialogue
                   2. preface/thanksgiving
                   3. institution narrative
                   4. anamnesis
                   5. epiclesis
                   6. concluding doxology

With only a couple of exceptions all of the historic liturgies which found their way into the liturgical tradition in the West include also:

                   1. sanctus
                   2. intercessory prayers (diptychs)
                   3. preliminary epiclesis (before the institution narrative) in some traditions

Here, then, are the basic elements of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving: 

1.  Introductory Dialogue. This is a dialogue of greeting between the presiding minister and people and invites everyone present to join in the giving of thanks, just as we might introduce grace before an ordinary meal.

            Minister: The Lord be with you.
            People: And also with you.

It may include an invitation to lift up the heart to God (sursum corda). This indicates that all that we do is an offering of ourselves to God, rather than a re-offering of Christ on an altar.

            Minister: Lift up your hearts.
            People: We lift them to the Lord.

Then there is an invitation to give thanks and followed by a response indicating that this is the proper and correct thing to do.

            Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
            People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.

The importance of this action is that the celebrant receives the assembly’s authorization and assent here to prior to proceeding.

2.  The Preface. Next comes the preface, a joyful thanksgiving that usually recites either a specific work of Christ (varying according to season or occasion) or a general narration of the history of creation and redemption. In the West this was a variable thanksgiving stressing one part of God’s saving activity. In the East this was an invariable thanksgiving presenting a general view of the whole history of salvation. When crafting this section, focus on the mighty acts of God in creation and redemption. This thankful recalling of the mighty acts of God is often ended with the Sanctus.

3. The Sanctus.  From Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8. The “Thrice holy” is the highest ascription of praise in scripture.

            Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts
            Heaven and earth are full of your glory

The Benedictus qui venit is added in most liturgical traditions. The Sanctus enables the congregation to join in the climax of the thanksgiving.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord

5. The Narrative of Institution. This commemoration of God’s acts is followed and culminated in many liturgies by the words of institution. The Reformers separated this out and made it into a warrant for celebration. Many of our recent liturgies follow the more ancient practice of including it in the prayer.

6. The Anamnesis. As noted before this is a unique kind of “remembering.”  In every sense it is an attempt to bring to life something in the present that occurred in the past. It involves a careful balancing between two elements: memorial and offering. These two are carefully linked in a way that makes the former grammatically dependent upon the later.

  • memorial – this section always mentions the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Often other aspects of the mystery of redemption are included , such as incarnation, burial, the mediation of the ascended Christ at the right hand of God and quite often a reference to the second coming which sets the Eucharist in eschatological perspective
  • offering –this section offers the bread and cup, making it clear that the offering is dependent upon its identification, in virtue of Christ’s institution, with his own offering of himself.

7. Epiclesis – (From Greek word meaning “invocation’) Fundamentally a petition for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the elements and upon the assembly gathered to partake, and a statement of the ends for which this is sought – the fruits of communion.

8. The Intercessions. Intercession appears at this moment in the prayer, because we are most clearly aware of the body of Christ and our participation in Christ’s presence. It is basically an extension of that aspect of the epiclesis that prays for the fruits of communion. This becomes then preparation for communion as our participation in the Body of Christ.

9. The Doxology. The Eucharistic Prayer ends with praise and thanksgiving. (Usually Trinitarian in form).