26 November 2008

A Simple Way to Pray

As several of my good friends and colleagues have pointed out, one of the most wonderful things about the new Treasury of Daily Prayer is its flexible adaptability to a variety of contexts and circumstances. An individual can easily use it, whether a pastor or a layperson, whether in the closet or the chancel, at the desk or in the den. Couples can use it together, as can parents with their children, or small groups within a congregation, as part of the discipline of daily prayer, or as an opening devotion at a meeting. It can supply and support the orders of Matins and Vespers, Morning and Evening Prayer, Suffrages, or any other form of Christian prayer. This is a tremendous benefit of the book, for which its editor and CPH are greatly to be commended.

For all of that, I am personally most grateful for the way that Treasury of Daily Prayer so readily serves the practice of daily prayer in the home and family. It truly does, and I give sincere thanks to God for that. To the extent that I was privileged to have a hand in the early developments of a Lutheran prayer book (now published as the TDP), I was always driven by a single-minded sense of purpose and desire that such a book would invite and facilitate the prayer and catechesis of fathers and mothers with their children. My own faith and piety were early formed by the daily devotions that my parents shared with me and my siblings, and it has always been my goal (though not always my success) to lead my own wife and children into the Word of God and prayer. Various resources have been helpful over the years, most notably the four-volume set, For All the Saints (ALPB), but there were difficulties and disappointments with each and all of them. Thus, I was pleased to be given the opportunity, as one aspect of my service on the Lectionary Committee of the Lutheran Hymnal Project, to work toward a prayer book that would encourage and assist the head of the household in teaching his family to pray.

One cannot understand the design of the LSB daily lectionary apart from this fact, that it was developed and assembled with a view toward what is now the Treasury of Daily Prayer; and that was done, specifically, with this goal of serving the laity in their prayer life, especially fathers with their families. I don't believe that detracts from the versatility of the book, but lends to it. The single biggest challenge was how to coordinate the entire lectionary with the contours of the Church Year, including the moveable Time of Easter (from Ash Wednesday through Holy Trinity) and the annual sanctoral cycle of festivals and commemorations, without complicating the connection and harmony of the daily readings with the other propers for each day. What we really aimed at was a way of keeping the readings and everything else, the Psalm, the writing, the hymnody, the prayer of the day, and any commemoration that might occur, all together in the same easily-determined location within the envisioned prayer book. I was personally hoping that such a book would be one that any Christian father could readily open up to the day at hand, and that he would there find everything laid out in such a way that he could easily proceed to pray and confess the Word of God with his family. The Treasury of Daily Prayer has indeed made that possible, in such a beautifully elegant and flexible manner.

For those fathers and mothers who desire to use the Treasury of Daily Prayer with their children, perhaps around the family table following a meal, here is a simple approach that I and my wife have found useful in praying with our children. It enables the participation of the whole family, even the littler children, without difficulty.

Those members of the family who are able to read will typically have their own copies of the Lutheran Service Book in hand. For their benefit, I indicate ahead of time the Psalm that we'll be praying together, as well as the hymn of the day, both of which they bookmark.

We begin with the familiar opening versicles and responses, and the Gloria Patri, as in Matins and Vespers: "O Lord, open my lips," etc. Everyone can do this from memory.

Then we pray together the Psalm of the day, either speaking in unison or responsively, verse-by-verse; or chanting the Psalm by the same tone we are using for the season at Emmaus.

I read the appointed Readings of the day, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, each followed by the familiar versicle and response, again as in Matins and Vespers: "O Lord, have mercy upon us," etc.

After the Readings of Holy Scripture, I then read the "Writing" provided for the day, which usually comments on one or the other of the Readings. Note that I am simply following the propers as provided and laid out for each day in the Treasury for Daily Prayer.

We sing together the Hymnody appointed for the day. Here is where the LSB comes in handy, since we usually sing more of the hymn than the single stanza indicated in the Treasury; plus, it helps to have the musical notation in front of us. The children love to sing hymns together, so that is always a high point of our daily prayer and catechesis.

Following the hymn, we pray in this manner: Invocation, Apostles' Creed, a three-fold Kyrie, the Our Father, then the Prayer of the Day as provided in the Treasury of Daily Prayer. At that point, I turn to the "Daily Prayer for the Christian" (TDP, pages 1306-09) for the general prayer prescribed for the pertinent day of the week. Those weekly prayers are one of the best and most beautiful provisions of the book.

If there are special intercessions to be made for our family, friends or congregation, I lead the family in those. We conclude with the Morning or Evening Prayer, then the Benedicamus and Benediction, again as in Matins and Vespers. We know these basic components by heart, so there is no need for us to look them up or have them in front of us.

Now, on days when there is a commemoration to observe, I often save mention of that till the end. The Treasury provides an informational paragraph on each commemoration at the end of the propers for its day, so it is convenient to read that paragraph at the conclusion of our family prayers. Sometimes, though, I find it more useful to read about the commemoration either after the Readings or after the Hymnody. Typically, the Writing of the day comes from the commemorated saint, and it is nice to have some awareness of that before hearing his words. Similarly, the Prayer of the Day usually incorporates some reference to the commemoration, in which case it is beneficial to know something about the person so remembered prior to praying.

As I have said, this simple approach has worked well for our family. It takes advantage of the straightforward way in which the Treasury of Daily Prayer is arranged and organized. It is not the only way to make good use of the book, but it is one way to facilitate a family's devotion.


ToddPeperkorn said...

This is very helpful. Our children are all 7 and under, so the length of readings in TDP just don't lend themselves to that, but it will more and more over time.


WM Cwirla said...

Not to be overlooked is the great utility of the TDP in the corporate life of the congregation in the daily offices (if such are kept in the congregation), staff devotions, the opening and closing of board and committee meetings, etc.

Scot K said...

Rick, thank you for this simple and beautiful description of how the Treasury can be used in the family. I pray it will be an encouragement for parents to start or enrich a family devotion time.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Thanks Rick. I'm going to excerpt your "how to" for some posts on "how to use" the Treasury for Family Devotions. Very helpful. And thanks for all your wonderful preparatory work on the concepts that are the foundation for The Treasury. Your many long hours of careful, prayerful study and work are, by God's grace and blessing, bringing forth a rich harvest in the form of a deeper, richer, more intentional life of prayer and meditation around God's Word.

Thanks be to God!