Back in the 50’s many of us grew up with some nursery songs that kind of explained the way things were at that time. One of the songs I remember was called ‘This is the way . . . and you may also remember that . . . this is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes . . . this is the way we wash our clothes, so early Monday morning’. Then of course there the verses about ironing our clothes on Tuesday, and cleaning the house on Wednesday, and shopping on Thursday, and then finally . . . going to Church . . . so early Sunday morning.
What this song taught us as little children was the accepted way of doing things . . . at least at that time when so many mothers were home and nearly all of the fathers went to work during the day.
And for us who lived at that time . . . it worked . . . because I would see my mother washing on Mondays along with all the other mothers in the neighborhood who would wash clothes and hang them out to dry in the backyard on long ropes with laundry pins. They would also clean house on Wednesday and go shopping on Thursday or Friday and then everyone would be off from work on Saturday, when all the fathers in the neighborhood would wash the family car and cut the grass as if in some kind of an army led by an invisible drill instructor . . . it seems like such a long time ago.
Why this all made any sense to us was that by each family doing the same things at the same time, it instilled in our lives a sort of natural order that made sense of life. Like the movement of a clock, everyone knew what was coming the next day and the next day after that.
But when something out of the ordinary was going to happen (like Christmas, Easter or Halloween), it was all pre-planned and taken in stride.
This in effect was the liturgy of the people at that time in our history and like the liturgy of the church it did not change much over the years because nobody found a reason for it to change.
By the end of the 60’s however, many changes in our society were occurring at an alarming rate. Mothers began to go to work, many at odd times of the day. Also, there was strife going on in America as people began to realize that some were missing out on equal employment, equal education and the American dream due to skin color and other factors.
And so, the liturgy of the people changed with the times . . . some people began to wash their clothes on Saturday while others began to work at night. Some men stayed home while their wives took on jobs outside the home.
No one sang that little tune of the 50’s anymore because it just wasn’t the way it was anymore.
And then there was the church . . . whose own liturgy had not changed in 500 years and now it was trying to compensate for missing people on Sundays. Desperately trying to stay relevant to the life and times, many churches changed with the times to survive the parishioner’s new found schedules. The mainline churches began using trial liturgies in order to keep the people’s attention. But the more they tried new innovations (in schedules, women’s ordinations, inclusive language etc.) the more they lost both people and resources until even at the present day when many churches have totally accepted the liberal agenda and an ever ‘inclusive Christianity’ as a newly invented religion, equal among many . . . the mainline churches continue to falter and decline.
In the epistle today Paul warned us that many would try . . . and would succeed . . . in leading the church astray through innovation and acceptance of ideas that are unbiblical and of no spiritual help. He tells us “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” For indeed, all answers to all questions are derived through Christ who saves us.
And what did Christ say in the Gospel today when asked what to do . . . and how to pray? Jesus provides for us the basis of communication with God in the simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer, which we all know and use each week in our liturgy. The Lord’s Prayer has been called the greatest prayer ever imagined.
“Lord, teach us to pray” implored one of Jesus’ disciples after hearing him pray in the gospel story today. The disciples must have witnessed Jesus’ personal magnetism and empowered mission that emanated from his regular intimate communion with His Father. This surely prompted the request. In response, Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer that, by the end of the first century, was being prayed three times daily simple believers and in churches and monasteries. Since then, it has been the most repeated Christian prayer for nearly 2,000 years.
So what is it about the Lord’s Prayer that makes it so comfortable for us and our liturgical order?
You may remember back in your Sunday school days of yester-year that there are at least five forms of prayer (or communication) that are acceptable to God.
They are first . . . Adoration in which we praise the greatness of God, and we acknowledge our dependence on him in all things.
Then there is Expiation – a prayer of contrition whereby we acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God for His forgiveness and mercy.
Next there is the prayer of Love or charity which are both just that—expressions of our love for God, the source and object of all love, truly evidenced in our personal commitment and our giving of our time, talents and resources.
Then there are the prayers of petition which are the type of prayer we are most familiar with. In them, we ask God for things we need—primarily spiritual needs, but physical ones as well. Our prayers of petition should always include a statement of our willingness to accept God’s will, whether He directly answers our prayer or not.
Lastly, perhaps the most neglected type of prayer, is the prayer of thanksgiving. While Grace Before Meals is a good example of a prayer of thanksgiving, we should get into the habit of thanking God for answering all our prayers each and every day.
So contained within the Lord’s Prayer all five forms of prayer are to found –
Adoration . . . Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.
Petition . . . Give us this day our daily bread and lead us not unto temptation
Expiation . . . forgive us our sins
Love and Charity . . . as we forgive the sins of others
Thanksgiving . . . For thine is the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen
Back in the very beginning of the Liturgy of the Church, Thomas Cramner used the Lord’s Prayer within the model for the service liturgy we use today. The entire liturgy of Holy Communion is built upon these five forms of prayer as we enter singing adoration to the Most High in the hymns . . . as we give our Love we offer our alms and oblations to the Lord during the offeratory . . . as we ask petitions in the prayers for the whole state of Christ’s Church . . . as we ask forgiveness in the prayer of expiation devoutly kneeling . . . and as we provide prayers of Thanksgiving in the post communion prayer and in the Gloria in Excelsis.
Our current liturgy, as it has been handed down to us from 1662, is nearly intact as originally written and continues to be for us the primary source of our spiritual life together. The liturgy of the church links us directly to the saints of the past as it looks forward to the coming of Christ at the end of time. The fact that it has not changed in the face of innovation and heresy is a testament to the steadfast fortitude of those who have gone before us who experienced within its words and motions a God and Savior who truly loves us and wants the best for us and his creation.
And finally from the Psalm today . . .
Show us your mercy, O LORD, * and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, * for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.