Order of Worship for this Reflection; Bulletin-TL 10-02-2022 YC P22
Let us pray:
O Keeper of our Souls, we pray that your Holy Spirit would breathe through us and fill our hungry hearts this World Communion day with words of Hope. Fill us with grain from Earth, bread from heaven; and fruit of the vine made for everlasting life. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts give us insight to your Holy Will, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
On a day of Communion, when we feed both our bodies and our souls with the bread of life, perhaps it would be helpful to review different ways the Holy Spirit feeds our hungry hearts – and how we assist in feeding others. This month I want to recall four different kinds of prayer practiced throughout the world’s journeys of faith which are mirrored in the weekly rhythms and movements of our Christian community. These four ways to pray are Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. To help you remember these, the first letter of each spells out the word ACTS. These acts of prayer also help me to remember that when we are following in the footsteps of Jesus and the Disciples, we too are engaging in Acts of discipleship.
Adoration is a prayer of praise. In most worship services during or after the prelude, we light the Christ candle and immediately begin with a call to worship, a hymn of praise, and a daily prayer. Together these parts of the service gather and prepare us to be in God’s presence together, glorifying God and expressing our devotion. There are many Psalms of praise we can turn to for inspiration in these movements of worship. Indeed, often times excerpts from the Psalms are used for the Call to Worship.
The next thing in the order of worship is Confession. The first thing I think about when I hear that word is the cloistered closet space where a penitent worshiper goes before a priest confessing his or her sins under the seal of the confessional and seeks absolution – a very Roman Catholic practice. Presbyterians and other Reformed traditions use more of a communal rhythm of confession and assurance. We usually pray aloud together a “prayer of confession” or “prayer of wholeness” that has been prepared.
Some worshiping communities include a moment of silence for personal confession and sing a short kyrie, then hear familiar words of assurance. You may have notice I usually match the assurance with pouring water into the Baptismal Font. I use this visual reminder to help us all recall who we are and whose we are – that we have been born anew. This rhythm of confession and pardon or invitation to healing and wholeness is as ancient as the beginnings of formalized communal worship.
There is another meaning in the word “confession” however. When John the Baptist saw Jesus walking along the road, it is recorded that he said to those around him, “Look, there goes the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world!” This kind of confession we often forget. When John spoke those words, he was confessing his belief – belief in Jesus Christ. Those that were with him and heard his words were John’s own disciples, or followers; When John confessed his belief that Christ was the long-awaited Messiah, his disciples left him and followed Jesus. This kind of put John out of a job, eventually, but he still proclaimed what he believed, and indeed the scripture was fulfilled when John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
The third kind of prayer is Thanksgiving, when we express celebrations in the life of the congregation and give thanks to God. We say a Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication, and we celebrate Communion using more formal liturgies referred to as the “Great Thanksgiving,” which is to say we are thanking Christ for his sacrifice on our behalf. Other times outside Sunday worship when we express thanksgiving may include when we rise each morning and thank God for the morning light, or when we give thanks before each meal for nourishment that has been provided for us. We may say a prayer at night thanking God for everything we have been given and for bringing us through the day.
Finally, the fourth kind of prayer is Supplication: this is when we ask God for help. Sometimes we pray for personal things, other times we pray on behalf of friends and family, their needs; others we care for, and even strangers we hear of but do not know. We also sometimes ask prayers for our pets or even the Earth herself. This kind of prayer can be done both in worship together or in our personal prayers. In worship, it is often marked with a call and response such as, “Lord, in your mercy,” “Hear our prayers.”
A.C.T.S. All of these ACTS of prayer are ways in which we can deepen our own prayer life and begin to satisfy hearts that are hungry for God. There are many other ways to pray, too. Movement, music, artistic expression, meditation, labyrinth walking or prayerful hiking. This month I begin with A.C.T.S. because it is a way we can order our prayers if we are not used to praying on a regular basis. Much like an order of worship, we can begin with adoration, move on to either kind of confession, then give thanks to God, and finally speak aloud to God our requests.
There is something very important to keep in mind with these and all other kinds of prayer which we sometimes forget, however: yes, God always listens; but prayer is a two-way street. In addition to offering our innermost thoughts and feelings to God, there always comes the need be active listeners as well. This may mean, as our ancestors in the faith knew, that we might have to sit down and wait; sometimes for a long time, before we understand how God is moving or has moved in our lives. Sometimes answers are not what we expect or even hope for, but above all let us remember to listen.
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.