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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Customs of public prayer

Spinning off some of the discussion from the previous thread -- Public Prayer -- what are some of the customs* of public prayer in your area? I'll reference a couple and you can add yours and/or comment on these (some may be used in combination).

Kneeling to pray
Standing to pray
Sitting to pray
Lifting up hands
Bowing the head
Closing the eyes
Women or men may lead publicly
Only men may lead publicly
Only ministers/officers/officials may lead publicly
Concert prayer (All can/may/do pray aloud at once; not usually called that by those who do it)
Pray rhythmically or chanting
Read a written prayer
Pray/quote the Lord's prayer
Pray "extemporaneously"

Kind of a different note, but probably somewhat of a custom, too -- some churches make it a point to invite visitors from sister churches to lead in prayer, while in others this doesn't seem to be much of a concern/interest.

* I use customs here to refer to either a or the common way it is done, whether or not you/they hold it to be scriptural or just a custom.

4 comments:

amity said...

All of the above, I don't doubt. I was very surprised to visit a church of my faith in Georgia, five states away, and find that when they prayed everyone got on their knees on the floor, turned back around to rest arms and torsos on the bench behind. I have seen all the customs you mention, except women leading, in churches of my faith and order.

amity said...

The one leading the prayer and perhaps the pastor and/or other minister kneels at the front of the congregation. Others remain seated with heads bowed. I don't think eyes open or closed makes a difference. Closed eyes makes me dizzy if I am standing!

Men only lead prayer. Women whisper a minimal "amen" at the end maybe, and more often say nothing. Men much more vocal. Sometimes "chanting," which I have heard called by various names. Prayers always extemporaneous. Never pray "Lord's prayer" (the model prayer) vain repetition.

amity said...

I have a joke:

A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. "Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said.

"No," said the minister. "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven."

"You're both wrong," the guru said. "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor."

The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted, "The best prayin' I ever did was when I was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole."

R. L. Vaughn said...

Re that last post, Peter thought praying while sinking into a storm tossed lake was a pretty good position in which to pray!

Thanks for that second clarification. I didn't think I'd ever heard of Primitive Baptists praying written prayers or quoting the Lord's/model prayer.

I think I've seen most of what I mentioned, but some not in a Baptist church. I have heard parts of the model prayer (such as starting out with "Our Father which art in Heaven") incorporated into the extemporaneous prayers of Baptist folk. I think the only "read" prayers I'm acquainted with have been at community type events (such as a graduation) which might conclude with someone reading a benediction. I don't know of any Baptists who limit their public prayers to being led by an "official" (e.g., ordained minister or deacon). I am familiar with situations where a lot of ministers are present and where the tendency was to call on them to lead prayer.