Lord, Hear Our Prayer

The conversation in the combox in Jason’s last post about vain repeition turned to the topic of prayer, and I thought this would be a good time to add a quick follow-up, since prayer was on my short list of things to cover.

I’ll admit what a terrible person I am: I have never been a fan of corporate prayer. I remember, as a young child, dreading the part of the service when I knew the “long prayer” would be coming. I tried to sit still and, ever the good little girl, I even tried to listen to our pastor. I was never quite sure of my role in this activity. If I agreed with what was said, would I be set? What if I didn’t agree? What if my mind drifted due to the length of the prayer? What if the person who offered the prayer uttered something completely ridiculous? (Like the guy I once heard pray for people “who aren’t people.” What?) Well, regardless of the answers, it was still my least favorite part of the service. I did feel bad about that, if that makes it any better.

My dislike for corporate prayer continued as I got older. This time, it was in regard to group situations when we took turns at praying. I consistently felt that prayer could easily become a matter of who performed the best in these types of settings- that is, who sounded the holiest, who prayed the longest, who was the most eloquent. The trouble I had with prayer in public situations relates very much to what Jason mentioned in his last post in terms of needing to feel “on” all the time, or to be clever.

Considering all the reservations I felt about corporate prayer, it is oddly one of the things I fell in love with as we began to attend Mass. I have especially come to appreciate the time of General Intercessions, otherwise known as the Prayers of the Faithful. Why? Because they are offered in a concise manner and they cover a lot of ground. Every week we pray for the Pope and our Bishop, our country and related concerns, especially in regard to protecting life, our local parish and its particular concerns, and a few other things. Each item is offered up by the person who is praying and our answer after each one, as the congregation, is “Lord, hear our prayer.”

I like the participation aspect during this prayer time, as opposed to being a passive listener, but what I most appreciate is the form of the prayer. While the intentions
change from week to week (aside from praying for Benedict our Pope and Paul, our Bishop), the form remains the same. This, to me, seems to act as a protective fence around the prayer time, causing the focus to remain on the intention, not the one who is offering up the words. I have also noticed that these form prayers work wonders in smaller group settings like Bible studies, where prayer time can easily run off the rails if left unchecked.  (I won’t digress, I won’t digress, I won’t digress…)

Never in a million years would I have thought that something so seemingly small would change the way I view corporate prayer. When the focus can be rightly set on what is being said instead of who is saying it, it becomes much easier to join with the community to offer up our prayer together.

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7 Responses to Lord, Hear Our Prayer

  1. owen says:

    ” the focus can be rightly set on what is being said instead of who is saying it, it becomes much easier to join with the community”

    Very well said Nikki and my experience also with two personal caveat (in good fun).

    1. sometimes the dear little ladies of certain ethnic background (not exclusively but primarily) have their own odd little ways when praying the rosary – you just learn to roll with it so it’s a good lesson in Who is important and who is not, still, it can be distracting and takes some getting used too.

    2. There are (in other settings than the one I just mentioned) remain very individualized and do not “follow the leader” hence some folks are trailing behind while other rip ahead and still others seem to make it a competition who can get the response part of the verse in first. I may be the only convert to have experienced these corporate prayer oddities but I don’t think so 🙂

    Finally, on use of the word “corporate” and prayer. I don’t find many Catholics using it, mostly just we converts and especially clergy converts, like me. I once remarked to a baptized Catholic who I appreciated corporate Catholic prayers. I received a stinging look and a reprimand which I found it hard not to laugh at, “The Church isn’t a business mister, it’s the family of God.”

    • Nikki says:

      Love it! I’m guessing I have a lot to get used to in terms of how converts think vs. cradle Catholics.
      I’m so glad there are other converts reading this blog who can identify with what we’re discovering in Catholicism- otherwise I’d just feel like a giddy fool (although I’m probably that, too.)

  2. John says:

    Nikki:

    Great post. I teach at a Catholic school, and we use this form in the classroom every day at the start of class. Since the kids all know it from attending mass, they easily slip into the rhythm of “For my grandma who is sick, we pray to the Lord. Lord hear our prayer.” It’s short, sweet, and it builds up the family of God.

    • Nikki says:

      Thanks! I think of that in terms of how my own kids will learn to pray with others and it just makes me happy that, for the most part, it will be much more focused on prayer and not on self.

  3. Owen says:

    Be giddy. It may be one of the unrecorded gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church 😉

  4. Sue says:

    I was just talking about this with my 12 year old son, and he said the same thing that you said about the long extemporaneous prayers at our old Protestant church. I had to admit that I felt the same way – even into adulthood. It was so hard to concentrate sometimes! Ditto on the “performance prayer” thing as well!

    I loved reading both of your conversion stories. I could identify with so much of your experiences, as a former Evangelical and recent convert myself. I look forward to reading more!

    • Nikki says:

      Thank you! I’m amazed at how our kids pick up on these little things… and glad that they can appreciate the difference!

      I’m so glad we live in the age of the internets so that we converts can connect! I don’t know if it’s because of the internet that so many people seem to be finding the Catholic Church (although I suspect that to be the case) or if it just seems that way because people have their stories out there on blogs and stuff, but either way, I think it’s pretty amazing.

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