In today's Divine Service, Pastor used one of the great General Prayers from the Altar Book. Each time we pray these familiar words, I find my heart and mind settling into their old rhythms with a calming peace. I'll know exactly what we are asking together here in this prayer and can give it my hearty "amen." This particular prayer is an update of the one that appeared in TLH, p. 5. Some of my favorite turns of phrase (not all of which survived the editing of LSB):
Almighty and everlasting God, who art worthy to be had in reverence by all the children of men, we give Thee most humble and hearty thanks for the innumerable blessings, both temporal and spiritual, which without any merit or worthiness on our part, Thou hast bestowed upon us...Grant unto Thy holy Church throughout the world purity of doctrine and faithful pastors, who shall preach Thy Word with power; and help all who hear rightly to understand and truly to believe it...Be Thou the Protector and Defender of Thy Church in all time of tribulation and danger; and may we, in communion with Thy Church and in brotherly unity with all our fellow Christians, fight the good fight of faith and in the end receive the salvation of our souls...Bestow Thy grace upon all the nations of the earth. Especially do we entreat Thee to bless our land and all its inhabitants and all who are in authority. Cause Thy glory to dwell among us and let mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, everywhere prevail....Be Thou the God and Father of the widow and the fatherless children, the Helper of the sick and the needy, and the Comforter of the forsaken and distressed...Accept, we beseech Thee, our bodies and souls, our hearts and minds, our talents and powers, together with the offerings we bring before Thee, which is our reasonable service...And as we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and a godly life to prepare for the world to come doing the work Thou hast given us to do while it is day; before the night cometh when no man can work. And when our last hour comes, support us by Thy power and receive us into Thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost forever and ever.
How timeless such intercession! How apt the words are for the tribulations of the Church in the world in our own day and age! How beautifully our holy mother, the Church, teaches us by lifting the sorrows of the world into her arms and carrying them to the throne of grace! How gently she reminds us of our status as strangers and pilgrims here, with our true home in the age to come!
Each time we use one of those old General Prayers I stop and wonder if the liturgical movement in the mid 20th century did a disservice to our prayer life as the children of God by transforming what had been an Ordinary (unchanging part of the rite) into a Proper (a changeable part), and thus suggesting that trying to think up new ways of continually asking for the same things is somehow preferable to taking the words of our spiritual fathers and mothers on our lips and praying with them anew in the old and sturdy phrases (which lean so very heavily upon the language of the Sacred Scriptures).