Prayers To End All Prayers

The best part of my newest book—Contemporary Pastoral Prayers for All Sorts of Situations—is the section on the theology of the “closing prayer.” Now, I realize that many pastors do not have a “closing prayer” because they simply follow the ancient custom of bestowing a benediction. However, for those who need help with their “closing prayers,” I offer the following classifications.

The Symphonic Prayer. This one never ends. It seems to end at certain points, but keeps on going. Like a symphony, the same themes are repeated, but not in different ways. You keep waiting for that roll of drums and blast of trumpets, but it never comes. When the prayer does end, it’s not with a shout, but a grateful sigh.

The Recapitulation Prayer. This prayer is especially helpful to latecomers who missed the choir anthem, the solo, or the Scripture readings. The pastor closes his eyes and relives the entire service, reporting what happened over the Lord’s shoulder. “Thank you for the choir anthem! Indeed, we say ‘Hallelujah for the Cross!’ And we give thanks for the solo by Sister Kennicott. [The congregation gave thanks when the solo ended.] And for the Scripture readings from Isaiah 40 and Mark 6, we give thanks.” On and on. One preacher I know keeps the Sunday bulletin before him so he does not miss anything. Once he forgot to give thanks for the ushers who took up the offering and he almost had to resign.

The Announcement Prayer. This one is just the opposite of the Recapitulation Prayer, because it reminds you of what is coming next. “Thank you for this service,” it begins; but then it continues; “And I pray for the Ladies’ Aide committee that is meeting in the parlor right after the service; and for the two o’clock ...

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