Kirk and I made an episcopal church our home a little over a year ago.
After attending non-denominational Christian churches for most of my life, getting used to liturgy in church definitely took some time. We were the ones flipping through the Book of Common Prayer, never quite sure which pages were happening next. We were the ones taking the cues of those around us when the time came to kneel or stand or sit. We were the ones who never made the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips, and heart at the announcement of the day’s Gospel reading because we just didn’t know what that gesture was or what it meant.
Despite the learning curve, it took me no time at all to appreciate two key aspects of liturgy:
- Liturgy helps you pray what’s true.
- Liturgy holds you up when you’ve fallen down.
Today we’re going to talk about the first, and tomorrow we’ll talk about the second.
So, when it comes to helping you pray what’s true, I love that every week, I get to tell God this:
I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart. I have not loved my neighbor as myself.
This prayer brings me back to myself. I’m reminded of what’s happened since I last prayed these words, as though the events of the previous week — or even the previous hour! — are playing on the movie screen of my mind. These words help me acknowledge my need for grace to myself and to God.
I love that just before taking eucharist, I get to say the words of the Lord’s Prayer slowly. I get to remember that God’s name is hallowed. That I long for his kingdom to come. That I get to be a part of his will being done on earth right now. I get to keep asking for just the right amount of daily bread. To be forgiven while being reminded of my own need to forgive. For God’s grace to help me evade the darker side of life. I get to tell God each and every week that his is the kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever, amen.
And I love when it comes time to pray this:
Grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.
It reminds me of my heart’s deepest prayer: that I want to love God with single-hearted focus all my days.
Liturgy helps us pray what’s true.
Have you ever experienced this with liturgy?