Stories from the four churches
At St Ann's one of the church leaders comes
forward to lead the intercessions, and asks the congregation to
mention things to pray for. A series of people say 'Can we pray for
. . .', usually mentioning things of a fairly personal and
practical nature. The leader fits this list of requests into the
litany prepared before the service. From the intercession that
follows, it is clear that the leader has been awake during the
notices and sermon. Both the sermon and the Bible reading on which
it was based are clearly reflected in the prayers. St Ann's have
tried other variations for the intercessions, and at the all-age
service these are sometimes led by a family together (using the
microphone for all of them). Once or twice for a special occasion
they have used visuals - photographs, video clips and drawings (but
with few words) on the data projector - inviting people to have
their eyes open as they pray. Occasionally they pray in small
groups, which they find a good way of including children in the
intercessions. Some have suggested using extempore prayer with the
whole congregation free to join in, but the severe difficulties
with audibility have ruled this out.
A small group from St Bartholomew's went to a
deanery course on praying in public and in private, and came back
with a checklist of do's and don'ts (see pages 173-174).
Intercessions at Evensong, where the congregation is small, are
usually led by the preacher, who can most easily relate the
contents of the prayers to the sermon. Recently in the mornings
they have been following a pattern using traditional collects, each
with a bidding from a different person, followed by silence before
the collect. Today, the intercession is based on the Lord's Prayer
(in its traditional form), with a pause after each petition, into
which another person (with a contrasting voice) inserts appropriate
intercessions relating to the petition. Next week they are going to
do the same sort of thing with the lesser litany in Evening Prayer.
Some of the topics come from the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, so that
they get a wider - and international - view of the Church. Since
going on the deanery course they have adopted the practice of the
intercession leader joining the preacher and whoever is leading the
worship in the vestry for prayer before the service.
As you enter St Christopher's today, there are
display boards with some posters, newspaper cuttings and pictures
which indicate the theme and some of the contents of the
intercession. The person leading the intercessions is well
prepared, and has arrived in time to look at the requests for
prayer pinned on the board by the votive candle stand, and decide
how many of these can be included within the Sunday intercessions -
not all are suitable! The prayers are led from the centre of the
church, among the people. The standard form of response to the
intercessions, from New Patterns for Worship, is sung to a
Taizé-style chant. The congregation picks up the note and hums it
while the intercession leader continues to the next response. This
didn't work very well the first time they tried it, but they soon
got used to it.
At St Dodo's, the person leading the
intercessions says 'Let us pray', but hasn't found the right text,
so we hear the pages of New Patterns for Worship turning
during the ensuing silence. He begins the responsive intercession
for Creation, which unfortunately fits neither the readings nor the
mood of the congregation. He forgets to rehearse the response at
the start and so has to stop at the first break and say 'When I say
… you should say …' in a voice which implies that the congregation
should have known this all along. He keeps switching between
addressing God and addressing the congregation throughout the
prayers: 'We really ought to pray for Ann ('Who is she?' half the
congregation wonder) especially today because …' - and more of his
views of the circumstances of members of the community follow.
Constructing prayers of
The standard Common Worship pattern, both in Order One
and in Order Two (Contemporary), provides a helpful outline
covering five areas:
The prayers usually include these concerns and may follow this
* The Church of Christ
* Creation, human society, the Sovereign
and those in authority
* The local community
* Those who suffer
* The communion of saints
As Note 15 to Common Worship Holy Communion says,
'Several forms of intercession are provided' (pages 281-287 in
Common Worship), but 'other suitable forms may be
used.They need not always conform to the sequence indicated.' The
forms of intercession in this section are designed as further
alternatives to the options in Common Worship, and are
also intended as models for those constructing their own prayers.
It may help to note the pattern for the response most commonly used
here, which is designed to help the congregation to know when to
make their response, without needing to have the full text of the
prayers in front of them.Two things are of particular help to a
* First, making the response unvarying,
short and memorable, introduced each timewith the same 'cue
* Second, taking care over how the
response and its cue line are introduced to the congregation at the
beginning of the prayers. This may be done by saying 'Each section
of the prayer concludes [the words of the cue], and the response is
[the words of the response].' For example:
Each section of the prayer concludes 'Lord in your mercy,' and
is 'hear our prayer':
We pray for all people everywhere.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Another perfectly acceptable way of constructing the prayers is
to use a series of short prayers or biddings, followed by silence
and one of the congregational endings.
A variety of patterns can be used, for example:
* bidding - silence - collect or own
* bidding - set words of one of the
litanies - silence - response
* series of biddings with silences -
longer prayer such as that on page 282 of Common
Whatever pattern is used should be used throughout the Prayers
of Intercession. It is important to keep the distinction between
biddings (addressed to the congregation) and prayer (addressed
directly to God and not referring to him in the third person)and
not to slide from one to the other without realizing it.
Other points to note:
* In planning the prayers section of A
Service of the Word, remember that the outline requires that the
service should include thanksgiving (and the Lord's Prayer) as well
as intercession. Suitable material is provided in Resource Section
G on pages 234-257.
* In some circumstances it may be
appropriate for the president to say both the opening invitation
and the concluding words such as the collect or other endings.
St Bartholomew's checklist:
how to lead the prayers
* DO read the readings. Sometimes they
might be used as a basis for prayer ('Father, thank you for . . .
[what the verse says]; now please help us to . . . ).
* DO discover the main theme of the
service: is it based on the readings, the season or
day? Ask the preacher if there is something specific to pray for if
the prayers follow the preaching.
* DO find out about particular needs, who
is ill or what church meetings or organizations need prayer this
week.Watch the news, and vary the way in which international topics
are prayed for; DON'T be out of date! But remember also the need
for balance and breadth. As Note 15 to Common Worship Holy
Communion says, 'the prayers of intercession are normally broadly
based, expressing a concern for the whole of God's world and the
ministry of the whole Church'.
* DO be aware of special events like
baptisms or when there are large numbers of children or the Town
Council present. DON'T focus on them (for example, a group of
bereaved people the week after a funeral) in a way which will
* DO remember what was prayed for last
week: should there be thanksgiving for
prayer being answered? What other thanksgiving should there be?
Again, as Note 15
says, 'intercession frequently arises out of thanksgiving'.
* DO decide what pattern of intercessions
will be best, given what has been discovered and the pattern of the
rest of the service (see the section on constructing the prayers of
intercession on pages 172-173).
* DON'T cram so much in that you have to
* DON'T forget about the need for
silences, and how and whether to introduce them.
* DON'T preach at people ('We pray we may
all give generously at Gift Day').
* DO pray the intercessions out loud
before the service, especially if they are homegrown.
Watch the speed: will the congregation have time to pray, or be
overwhelmed by the variety of images and topics? Will they know
when to come in with theresponse? Is it short enough to remember?
Look at the examples in this section.
Collects: stories from the four
Today, St Ann's are using A Service of the Word
with a Celebration of Holy Communion. They have seen that the
rubric in the service shows that they can use the Collect as a
summing up prayer which draws together the intercessions and
thanksgivings before the service moves on into the Holy Communion.
This means that it need not be particularly linked with the
readings or the Liturgy of the Word.They have recently been
printing it othe notice sheet, so that members of the church can
use it at home during the week.
Children in the church school at St
Bartholomew's have been learning this week how to write
collects.They have used a very simple formula (see page 176) which
shows them how to take a verse of Scripture, thank God for
something about himself and then pray for something connected with
that aspect of God's character. The teacher hopes it will help them
in making up their own prayers at home (and the vicar secretly
thinks some of the adults would find this a help too!). He recently
preached on the prayer of the believers in Acts 4.24-31, pointing
out how many lines of the prayer were taken up with telling God how
great he was and what he had done, using that as the reason why God
should take notice of their request, which was to result in
'wonders and miracles … through the name of Jesus'. Compare this
with the pattern in the 'Collect construction' section on page 176.
Four of the children's collects are going to be used in the worship
The vicar and Reader at St Christopher's have
been particularly struck recently by how good some of the BCP
Collects still sound.They have been using them in less formal
settings, in small groups and to open or close meetings, following
the pattern: 'Let us pray (for …)' - silence - collect.They have
also used them, where they fit the theme or season of the year,
before the final prayer at the Eucharist. The congregation already
alternative post-communion prayers by heart, so that they can join
in from the first phrase of the prayer.
At St Dodo's, the vicar announces the Collect
on page 498 of Common Worship as if he intends people to
join in with him. He realizes with dismay that this is the
traditional version and he had intended to use the modern version.
There is quite a silence before the Collect (which is unusual for
them) as he gets almost to the right page but then, despite blowing
hard at the pages to try to separate them, he gives up the struggle
and prays the Collect one page earlier instead, which one or two
remember from last week. He also announces that as it is 'St
William Tyndale's day' tomorrow, he is going to pray that prayer
too. There is another suitably long silence while he fumbles for
the page in another book. The congregation are left with the
impression that the Collect is just a bit of mumbo jumbo to be got
through, rather than contributing to the movement of the
||Almighty and everlasting God,
||God, you are …
||you hate nothing that you have made
||you say …
||and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
||you do … / have done …
||Petition or request:
||create and make in us new and contrite hearts
||Therefore, Lord, please …
||Result or reason:
||that we, worthily lamenting our sins
||So that ...
||and acknowledging our wretchedness,
||may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
||perfect remission and forgiveness;
||through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
These guidelines may help those writing their own material, for
collects or intercessions for example, to be on the same level of
language as the new writing in New Patterns.
* Use concrete visual images rather
than language which is conceptual and full of ideas.
* Avoid complicated sentence
* If there is a choice, prefer the word
with fewer syllables.
* Address God as 'you'.
* Keep sentences as short as possible. Use
full stops rather than semicolons.
* Use language which includes women as
well as men, black as well as white.
* Watch the rhythm. The language should be
rhythmic and flow easily, but take care not to have a repetitive
* Liturgical language should not be stark
or empty. It is not wrong to repeat ideas or say the same thing
twice in different words. Cranmer recognized that people need time
and repetition to make the liturgy their own: we need to do it
without a string of dependent clauses.
* Be prepared to throw it away after using
it, and to do it differently next time.
Notes to the resources
This section includes:
* Responses for use in prayers of
* Alternative endings for the
* Introductions for the Lord's
* Responsive forms of intercession and
The forms of intercession in this section may replace the
intercessions in the Holy Communion, or be used in the prayer
section of A Service of the Word, or after the third collect in
Morning or Evening Prayer (The Book of Common Prayer) or
after the Creed in Morning or Evening Prayer on Sundays.They may
also be used at eucharistic or non-eucharistic services on
Texts for this