Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Style of Prayer

Coming from a Catholic tradition to Vintage Faith, one of my biggest adjustments was to the style of prayer.  In Catholic mass, our prayers are highly formal.  Everyone knows the words, and if you don't, they are usually printed down somewhere handy.  Even the free-form prayers have a certain formal quality about them.  A speaker will read from a printed card, perhaps something along the lines of "we pray for the suffering families in Egypt...".  The speaker ends with "we pray to the Lord" and the congregation immediately responds with "Lord hear our prayer".

In Vintage Faith services, and even more so in some of the prayer groups I have been in, prayer is entirely different.  The prayers are almost always free-form, unscripted, passionate, and llllooooooonnnnnnngggggg.

I avoided praying with others at Vintage for as long as I could put it off courteously, but there came a point that I needed to join in.  Gradually, I have become accustomed to the style.  It no longer strikes me as odd when people come near to tears in their prayers, and I have gotten more comfortable praying out loud off the cuff.

I'll admit that I still prefer praying in the Catholic style.  When I pass by Holy Cross (the Catholic Church in town), I'll sneak into the chapel, light a candle, and pray to God silently.  I know God does not need the candle, the sign of the cross, or any of the other ceremonious trappings of the Catholic Church.  And I know that I do not need them either.  Nonetheless, they make me feel somewhat at home.

But I've also gained an appreciation for the protestant style of prayer.  Heartfelt spoken prayers bare your soul to your fellow Christians, and help bind us together more tightly as a community of believers.

The difference in style of prayer is not quite as stark as I make it out here.  Vintage will occasionally read the Our Father aloud.  Also, the two most devout Catholics that I know routinely pray out loud in an unscripted form.  God does not demand that we all pray to him in the same manner, so long as we all pray to him.

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