Monday, September 12, 2011

Do People Still Pray This Way?

Yesterday was the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. Below are the Collect of the Day and the first of the two prayers for praying after the distribution of the Holy Communion.

The Collect of the Day -- pg. 19 (TLH)

Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it comes that Thy faithful people do unto Thee true and laudable service, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so faithfully serve Thee in this life that we fail not finally to attain Thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

The Prayer Following the Distribution:

We give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, that Thou hast refreshed us through this salutary gift; and we beseech Thee that of Thy mercy Thou wouldst strengthen us through the same in faith toward Thee and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

How many congregations even use these prayers anymore? Of those who do, how many worshipers actually ponder the words that they are praying? Do people today realize the depth of these prayers? Do people understand the fullness of what is being taught by God through these prayers? Do people realize what is being confessed and embraced as true and holy and good?

In the Collect we prayed in acknowledgment that true and laudable service to God is a gift that He alone works in us. We confess that true worship is not something that we produce by our own wills or reason. We confess that the only reason that we dare even to pray and the only reason that we dare to believe that God hears us graciously and the only reason that we have hope of everlasting life and salvation is because of the promises that God Himself makes in connection with the merits of Jesus, His Son, our Lord.

In the post distribution prayer, one of two marvelous prayers that are provided, we prayed in acknowledgment of the fact that the Holy Communion is the reason for the divine service and that through this salutary (healthful) gift of God we have been refreshed in the blessings of God’s Holy Communion. Moreover, we prayed that this gift would continue to work in us what God promises, namely, that in His mercy He would strengthen us in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another.

This is truly an amazing prayer. Do people pay any attention to these magnificent words? As I reflect upon the years of my growing up, I remember this prayer being prayed many times. Yet I cannot remember a single time that the pastors actually taught this in the sermons. Not once! Their sermons taught the exact opposite. Their sermons taught how we must strive to be more faithful and how we must learn to be more loving to one another. But this magnificent prayer teaches us that this is what God works for us through this blessed Sacrament!

Is this not cause for true thanksgiving? Does this not cause us to understand why this is called the Holy Eucharist, that is, the Holy Thanksgiving?

God promises that we do not have to strive to be faithful, because He works this strengthening of faith for us in this blessed gift from heaven. God promises that we do not have to work to become more loving toward one another because this is what He works for us in this meal of unity and true faith. As He pours out to us His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, we are united in the faith that He works in us and renews in us. As we hear Him calling us to eat that which makes us one with Him and therefore with one another and to drink that which is given for the remission of our sins, we are refreshed and renewed and strengthened in the faith by which salvation and everlasting life are bestowed to us and we are united in the love that is poured out to us with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and in the gracious giving of this heavenly banquet.

The following distribution hymn, the last two stanzas being translated from Luther, teach and confess this yet again:

“O Lord, We Praise Thee”

1. O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee,
In thanksgiving bow before Thee.
Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish
Our weak souls that they may flouish:
O Lord, have mercy!
May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!

2. Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!
Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee
That Thy blood should bless and sustain me.
All our debt Thou hast paid;
Peace with God once more is made:
O Lord, have mercy.

3. May God bestow on us His grace and favor
To please Him with our behavior
And live as brethren here in love and union
Nor repent this blest Communion!
O Lord, have mercy!
Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us;
Grant that heavenly-minded He make us;
Give Thy Church, Lord, to see
Days of peace and unity:
O Lord, have mercy!

† † †

1 comment:

Gary Cepek said...

Thank you for setting forth clearly from these prayers, the distinction between what is God centered and what is man centered. By His Means
of Grace, the LORD wills and acts in His people according to His good pleasure. This work of His Spirit alone preserves them even while the sinful nature, with its evil inclinations, tends only to sin all the time.

Oh, give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.

Gary Cepek