I have been reading the compline night prayers of a group of meditative Christians over the last month, looking at the style, the wording, watching for similes and synonyms that would be useful in my prayer life.
I realised that I didn’t know what compline meant but that the prayers were well rounded, contained elements of intercession, confession, adoration and were directed to all the components of the Trinity.
I looked at the collects in MWB and they are not the same. There is a sparsity of language. I know I have to learn to slow down when I am praying in public as the leader of worship in a service and I think I will start using the collects to do that rather than pray extempore. And more than that I will attempt to write prayers that follow the rule so of either compline or collect discipline.
I was talking to someone this week who wanted to explore extempore praying, that at the moment they don’t feel free to do so. There can be many reasons people don’t pray in public: scared, scared to say wrong thing, scared someone will talk over them, unsure of words, other people speak reams of prayer how do they do that? Feelings of inferiority, feelings that everyone else is waiting for you to speak, feelings of inadequacy in terms of language or form or theology.
Having spent a few years listening to other praying extemporily I have noted a few things. Some people recite a prayer they have learned to say whether from themselves or from someone else.
Others use their own framework, a bit like a collect and then freely pray within that framework. There are a few people who pray without any of this but their language is filled with scripture. And again a few who open their mouth without knowing what will come out, truly extempore, open to the leading of the Spirit. In fellowship groups and bible studies I tend towards this kind of prayer, let it come out how it will.
But as a leader of worship I wonder (too much) about what would happen if I went blank so I write down a prayer spoken at some point in the week beforehand after some meditation all prayer about the congregation. Sometimes I lead prayers of intercession with the basic framework in my head and no thought as to what will be said in between. Like praying for world situations, country situations, county situations, town situations, the church, our families and so it encompasses world events, country politics kind of, community outside and inside the church and those we know well petitioning for healing, wisdom and peace.
Over a year ago I had the huge privilege of listening to someone praying out loud for the very first time. It is for those moments I am on this journey, each one precious for the person and for me and for The Lord. I have heard many first extempore prayers since then and it hasn’t lost its magic. I have watched my sisters and brothers in Christ grow, particularly in the last two years and I am in the stands clapping and cheering them on. I know that I have given others those moments too. And I thank God for all the people in the stands clapping and cheering me on.