Saturday, January 28, 2012

Participating in History

In my recent post on the practice of family prayers, I mentioned that the biggest deficiency of our liturgies is the portion dedicated to the extemporaneous prayers. Because traditional liturgies have been filled primarily with praying and with Scripture, any attempt I make of imitating those liturgies in our family prayer times can only improve by doing the same.


I have been working on a system of prayers that will accomplish several goals. First, our prayers need to encompass God’s entire creation. Paul urges believers “that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (2 Timothy 2:2). In order to accomplish this large task, we need to rid ourselves of spontaneity and become systematic the task.

Second, our prayers need to be specific. Though prayers should be all-encompassing, we need to avoid simply generalized prayers. Common prayer books are very helpful in reminding us of all the occasions for which a believer must pray as well as in giving us general ideas for prayer, and we would do well to be well-versed in those prayers. Yet, we also need to incorporate specific names and circumstances into our prayers. Specificity provides us the ability to anticipate specific answers to our prayers.

Third, our prayers must be knowledgeable. We need to inform ourselves of the contexts of needs, the offices of rulers, and of histories behind problems. We must seek to develop a vested interest in the needs of the whole world. The world depends upon our intercessory work. As a priestly kingdom, we exist for the life of the world. Thus, the more we understand the needs that be bring before God, the more powerful our prayers will be.

Last, and related to the previous two, our prayers need to be toilsome. Prayer is an awesome burden that we bear on behalf of the world. No doubt it is truly miraculous that simply by bringing requests before God changes the world. Yet, our efforts of prayer can also include real work in seeking to bring them to pass. Thus, we can perform activities that deepen our connection to needs as we strive to see them met.


In an effort to accomplish these goals, I have developed a strategy for prayer. As a family, we have four times of prayer each day, corresponding to each meal and before bed. Each of these offices of prayer has a particular focus. During matins, we pray for needs pertaining to Christ’s church. During midday office, we pray for the needs of individuals and families. Vespers focuses on the needs of the civil governments and of the culture all around us. And the prayers during compline relate to the spread of the gospel into the whole world.

We have a chart (or two) for each separate prayer office for every day on which we write down specific requests. As we pray, then, we record the dates on which we pray for each request. We also update the requests or cross them out as they get answered.


As I mentioned, the matins prayers focus on Christ’s church. On Sunday, we pray for the church universal. Requests are particularly related to the participation, as the church catholic, in Lord’s Day worship, the greatest work of God’s people in the world. We pray that God would use the worship to transform this world. We also pray for liturgical reform in all Jesus’ body as well as for other requests that pertain to the one holy catholic church.

On Monday, our matins prayers focus on our own local church, especially its leadership (elders, deacons, musicians, etc.). Tuesday morning prayers relate to other ministries of our church, like Sunday School and choir. Wednesday focuses on our church’s denomination as a whole, its leadership, and its needs. Thursday relates to our church’s particular presbytery, its leadership and needs. Friday morning carries to God petitions regarding the leadership and needs of other presbyteries in our denomination. And Saturday focuses on other denominations and churches throughout Christ’s body.


Midday prayers relate to needs of families and individuals. Sunday focuses on our own family; Monday and Tuesday on our extended family. Wednesday midday prayers relate to our neighbors; Thursday to our co-workers; Friday to educational institutions; and Saturday to our community group and closest friends.

Additionally, during midday office we have pray for a list of “Promised Prayer” requests. We maintain a chart of prayer requests including those requests that we have promised to others that we would take before God. I think it was C. S. Lewis who lamented that the most frequently broken promise among believers is the promise to pray for someone about a specific need. Yet these prayers are vital! So we write these needs down, pray for them, and constantly monitor God’s answer.


Our vespers prayers relate to civil rulers and to the culture that surrounds us. On Sunday, we pray for the one-world government, that of Jesus sitting on His throne putting all of His enemies, one by one, under His feet. These prayers are similar to the morning prayer, but being Sunday, that’s okay. We simply pray that through the church and her faithful worship and service in the world, Jesus’ kingdom would come more and more and that His will be done more and more on earth as it is in heaven.

On Monday, we pray for our local city government; on Tuesday, for our county government; on Wednesday, state; and on Thursday, federal. On Friday, we pray for the needs inherent in the top domestic news items, and on Saturday for the international ones.

Additionally, on Monday through Thursday vespers, we pray for specific cultural issues, like abortion and idolatry, that drag down the society in which we live.

Operation World

The prayers of compline include requests pertaining to the spread of Jesus’ kingdom. Under the fantastic guidance of Operation World, we pray for the countries of the world, making it around the globe in one year. That book provides a lot of valuable demographic information and provides specific requests regarding the gospel and the church in each country. We also will inform ourselves about the key issues each nation is facing at this time. Also, Sunday through Tuesday, we pray for different missionaries; Wednesday and Thursday for missions agencies; and Friday and Saturday for charities and ministries.

By means of this system, I have attempted to cover all realms for which a Christian should pray. If you detect any glaring holes, please let me know!

Additional Benefits

In additional to the primary benefit of lifting the world before God’s throne, these exercises also provide other benefits.

First, the practice of corporate prayer itself is significant to our development as believers. This is an ancient practice that has been eclipsed in many ways by individual, devotional prayer. Yet, as we pray corporately, we develop an appreciation for the intensive connection within Christ’s body.

Second, by means of this practice, God is nurturing our affections. Our day would be incomplete without prayer, and it would seem downright odd. We gain an awareness and a burden for the needs of all people around us. It is difficult to maintain animosity toward someone for whom we pray! Due to constant exposure to it, we develop a sensitivity for the needs of our society, our neighbors, our governments, and our family. Our prayers are an act of laying down our lives for our friends, neighbors, and enemies.

Third, whereas the previous benefits focus on the primary task of formation of believers, if this system works right, it will have significant informative benefit. Each capable member of the family will be tasked to perform research about the specific realms for which we pray. By necessity, we will need to understand the workings of government, the leadership of churches and denominations, and the crux of the cultural and newsworthy issues of our day. And to gain this understanding, we all will develop our skills in research and presentation.

Additionally, as part of our procedure in maintaining our mindset of connectedness with others, all who are able will write letters to other people: missionaries, governors, judges, pastors, and family members. This will increase our urgency in prayer as well as develop our skills in writing and communication.

We can also volunteer our time and energy in seeing our prayers answered. Because of our praying, we develop a longing that ills be corrected and needs be met. Our prayers give us the impetus to make meals for those in need, to volunteer our time and resources for the defeat of wickedness, and to present the gospel to the lost.

Finally, each of these persons and issues for which we pray are rich in discussion topics. Meals and other family times will be filled with discussion of current events, ethical dilemmas, Biblical relevance, and the ebbs and flows of history. We will become more developed and informed individuals who can converse about a variety of topics with others.

My family is still in the beginning stages of carrying out this plan, but already we are pleased with what God is doing. We trust that by His grace, God will mold our hearts and make us people of prayer and of the Word. And by our frequent prayers, we can participate in the course of history.

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