What I Pray Before the Bread and Wine

We do weekly communion, which means that there are two prayers that I come up with each week: one before the bread and one before the wine. When I began preaching and leading worship I decided to structure these communion prayers a particular way. Here is how I do it. Before the bread I use a portion of the Old Testament to structure my prayer. Before the wine, I use a corresponding portion of the New Testament. From Advent through 1st Sunday of Trinity these prayers follow the church year. For example during Advent, I use Daniel, John the Baptist, Isaiah, and Revelation (2nd Advent). When the Trinity/Pentecost season begins I start with creation and work through Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah, as well as some others. These prayers are the same every year, though I would like to eventually have a two year set. Here are my prayers for the 2nd Sunday of Trinity.

Bread: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it truly, right and good and our duty that we should at all times and in all places give You thanks and magnify Your Holy Name, therefore with the Angels, the Archangels and all the company of heaven we praise You saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. 

We praise you Father for the world you have made. For the sun, moon and stars which declare your glory. For the winged creatures that soar in the sky.  For the beasts that run upon the ground. For all the creeping things that crawl on the ground and for the fish that swarm the sea. For all these we give you thanks and praise. We know that you have placed these things under our feet that we might use them to your glory.  As we eat this bread strengthen us in Christ that we might go forth and take dominion.  In the name of Christ we pray. Amen!

Wine: O Lord you are worthy of all blessing and honor for you sent your only begotten Son into the world to deliver your people from sin and the Devil. We praise you Almighty God that you did not leave this world to be ravaged by Satan, but instead reconciled us to Yourself through Jesus Christ. Indeed we are new creations in Christ, old things have passed away and all things have become new. O Lord as we drink nourish us upon Christ. Help us to be separate from the unbelieving world that we might truly be your sons and daughters. For the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. Amen!

Here are my prayers for Ascension Sunday:

Bread: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it truly, right and good and our duty that we should at all times and in all places give You thanks and magnify Your Holy Name, therefore with the Angels, the Archangels and all the company of heaven we praise You saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. 

Everlasting Father, we praise you for King David for when the uncircumcised Philistine stood up and defied the armies of the Living God, he gather his courage and the stone sank in the giant’s head and David cut off his head with his own sword. We praise you that as you delivered David from the bear and the lion so you delivered him from the giant. For the battle belongs to You O Lord.. We praise you that the one who born of David is the true King. We praise you that his body was broken that Satan’s head might be crushed. We ask now that you would grant us strength as we eat  to fight as David fought. Go before us O Lord as you went before David and scatter your enemies before our faces and that all the kingdoms of the earth might belong to Christ. In His Name we ask all this Amen!

Wine: O Lord you are worthy of all blessing and honor for you sent your Son that he might be our great high priest. He ascended on high where he makes intercession for us.  He promised that we would receive the Holy Spirit and that we would be his messengers to the ends of the earth. We also praise you that one day he will return just as left. As we drink the wine this morning grant us grace through Christ’s shed blood that we may be faithful witnesses to Him and that we might look with joy to the day when our Lord will return on the clouds of heaven. We pray this for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom Amen! 

Here are the prayers for this coming Sunday, the 1st Sunday of Christmas

Bread: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it truly, right and good and our duty that we should at all times and in all places give You thanks and magnify Your Holy Name, therefore with the Angels, the Archangels and all the company of heaven we praise You saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. 

We praise You for the prophet Isaiah, he saw the glories of the coming Messiah. He knew the virgin would bear a Child and the government would be upon His shoulders and He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and of His Kingdom there would be no end. We are grateful he preached of the great comfort the Messiah would bring by bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows. We pray now as we eat that You would feed us upon this glorious Christ that Isaiah saw and fill our mouths with praise for the work He has done. Amen!

Wine: Blessed are You Lord God for no one can restrain Your hand. Herod the King sought to slay Your Son. Yet you thwarted Him by sending dreams to the wise men and to Joseph. Your Son was then protected in the land where Israel was once in bondage, Egypt. Lord we, like Christ, are plagued on every side by rulers that hate and seek in every way to destroy Your Kingdom. We pray that you would nourish us as we drink and protect us from all our enemies that might live quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence. Amen!

The prayers are not perfect. I revise them on a regular basis. Some of them sound too “high” and not like a normal prayer. Some are too long or the sentence structure is awkward. One of the most common revisions is shortening the prayer or shortening sentences within the prayer. There is still work to be done. Having prayed them for several years now, I rarely read them. I often use them as a guide to lead our people to the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes I ignore these prayers all together and pray something else the Lord has laid on my heart. Using these prayers for many years has made me more confident in praying off script. 

I am not sure where I came up with idea, but it has worked well for me. We pray through the all the major portions of Scripture as we work through the year. It also forces me to connect the Old Testament with both the Lord’s Supper and the New Testament. It also helps me pray through the church year. My private prayer life includes more Scripture due to writing out these prayers.

Song Notes: November 23rd, 2014

Brothers and Sisters, here are the songs we will be singing this coming Lord’s Day. Just a reminder we sing four songs outside of our service music (Doxology, etc.) and the Lord’s Supper.

I have included links to various people singing the hymns. Sorry about the icon on the first link.

Entrance Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, p. 241
The same event can call us to different responses. Christmas is one of those events. Christmas is about joy. There should be presents and trees and parties and gifts. There should many good things that we do at this time of year just to remind us that Christ came to save. There should be celebrations and joy that reflect the wonder and delight of the season.

But Christmas also provokes silence as we stand amazed at the mystery of a God who would descend to dwell with us. And not just dwell with us, but come to die and deliver us. Our entrance hymn this week provokes this second mood. It tells us to be silent and stand with fear. It also reminds us that Christ came to bless us. It is hard to imagine that just a few years ago I did not even know this song. Now it has become part of my Christmas memory.

There are so many great truths in this hymn, but my favorite line is “As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day/that the powers of hell may vanish, As the darkness clears away.” Christmas is not about defeat. Christmas is about victory.  Christ came to destroy death, sin, and the devil. Here is why celebration is not just a good thing to do at Christmas. It is absolutely necessary. Without joy and celebration Christmas has been emptied of its meaning. So despite its somber tone the hymn still leads us to rejoicing.

Hymn of Thanksgiving: O Sacred Head Now Wounded, p. 263
The song we sing after the confession of sin can go two directions. It can look forward to a Christian life that has been cleansed of sin focusing on joyful obedience. Or the song can look back to the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross so our sins could be taken away. This old, famous hymn does the second. The tone is somber, but fitting as we think about Christ’s death. This hymn reminds us of the horrors of Christ’s sacrifice. He was holy, yet God laid on him the iniquity of us all. That sacred head worn no crown of gold, but a crown of thorns as he was crucified.

The line that I enjoy the most is “Mine, mine was the transgression/but thine the deadly pain. Lo here I fall my Savior/Tis I deserve thy place.”  There is a wonderful truth expressed in these lines. We deserved the cross, but Christ was our substitute.

This hymn ends where all our meditations on the cross should end; thanksgiving. “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee dearest Friend.” The cross is not simply something to study. It is something to glory in and give thanks for. The song also reminds us that Christmas was just the beginning. Should we think about the cross during Christmas season? Yes, a hundred yeses.  The manger was just the one chapter in the story of our great salvation. A story that goes through the cross, but does not end there.

Worship Song #1: Be Thou My Vision, p. 342
Be Thou My Vision call us to wholehearted devotion to God. The author wants God to consume his vision, his thoughts. He wants the Lord to be everything to him. For this man the presence of God is valued above all else. Much like King David, he knows that God with us trumps everything else (Psalm 84:4, 10). The author also realizes that money can draw us away from the Lord. Riches can slowly sap our desire for God. So he prays that he will not give heed to riches. The praise of man can also cause us to abandon God. Our longing for flattery can replace our longing for the Lord. The author asks the Lord to keep him from giving heed to man’s empty praises.

In the last verse there is a hint at what else can draw us away from God. The author says “whatever befall, still be my vision.”  To paraphrase: No matter what happens good or bad, painful or comforting, pleasant or sad, help me to cling to you Lord. This world is filled with things, experiences, people, that would draw us away from our Lord. But the greatest danger lies within us. Our hearts are prone to wander. If God is our vision then the allure of the world and all its treasures will diminish.

This is a great hymn. But it is also a prayer. Perhaps here is the greatest truth of this hymn. If we want God to be our vision, our treasure, our Father, then we need to cry out to him for aid. Our own efforts, unless they are supported by His Spirit, will fail.

Worship Song #2: Psalm 119 (Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near), p. 158
We love singing this Psalm. It is a delight to sing and hear the different parts. This Lord’s Day we sing this just before I preach. It is a perfect hymn for this slot. As I am sure you know Psalm 119 is all about God’s Word. The Holy Spirit decided that the longest chapter in Scripture would be devoted to the many glories of God’s Word.  Singing this Psalm before we settle in to hear the Word is a perfect combination of three key elements in worship; singing, the Word, and prayer. We sing a prayer about God’s Word. It is tough to beat that.

The Psalm uses several different words to describe the Scriptures. Here they are in the order they appear:Word, Promise, Statutes, Word, Commands, Precepts, Holy Law, Ordinances, and Commands.

A tone of joy over God’s word pervades the Psalm. Since God teaches David his word, he sings God’s praises (vs. 2). David goes on to make sure his tongue is singing the praises of God’s word (vs. 2). He rejoices in God’s holy law (vs. 3). When God’s ordinances help him he praises the Lord (vs. 4). There is no more striking aspect of Psalm 119 than the delight David has in God’s Word. We might study God’s Word, talk about God’s Word, debate about God’s Word, but I think most of would be embarrassed by David’s kid like joy in God’s Word, including the Old Testament law.

Finally, the last two lines remind us that God’s Word brings us back when we have strayed. I had a friend once who was having doubts about the Christian faith. He was reading philosophers, theologians, blogs, magazines, and sermons all trying to get a grasp on what was true. I told him, why not read the Bible.  A man who refuses to search the Scriptures to see his own sins is a man who is not truly interested in returning to God. Psalm 119 is personal. The personal pronoun “I” is used over 100 times in the Psalm. For David the Scriptures are for him. They encourage him, teach him, draw him to God, and rebuke him. Do you read for you? Or do you read for others?

Bonus Song: Psalm 98 (O Sing a New Song to the Lord). We are not singing this, but it is still wonderful to listen to.

Good Friday Service

This Friday at 5:30 pm Christ Church of Morgantown will be having their annual Good Friday Service. It will be located here, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Morgantown. We read through the Old Testament promises of Christ’s coming, as well as the crucifixion account. We also sing many of the best known passion hymns such as “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”  All told it runs about 30 minutes. Afterwards we will have meal of soup and chili.  If you do not have anywhere to go on Good Friday consider attending our service. It is a wonderful reminder each year of Christ’s work upon the cross.

The Session of Christ Church also encourages fasting on that day. You can do it any variety of ways. My family usually eats bread and water for a couple of meals. You can skip a whole meal or a couple of meals. If you are pregnant or nursing you may want to forgo fasting. We also encourage you to spend the time you would normally be eating or preparing food in extra prayer.

Song Notes for November 24, 2013

Here are some brief notes on the songs we will be singing this Lord’s Day at Christ Church. 
Just a reminder we sing four hymns outside of the Lord’s Supper: an entrance hymn, one song after the confession of sin, and two songs prior to the sermon. 
Entrance Hymn: Psalm 138 (With All My Heart My Thanks I’ll Bring), p. 182
This is a great song to enter into worship with. First, it has a wonderful tune. The opening song should have some pep to it. This one does.
Second, it is about thanksgiving. The very first line of the song indicates David’s purpose for writing the psalm. He wants to give thanks to God for his truth and grace. Whenever we enter God’s house we should be ready to give him thanks and praise.
Third, there is an emphasis on God’s Word. King David gives praise to God for magnifying his faithful word. Then he declares that all the kings of earth will give thanks and sing when they have heard God’s Word.  Like David we enter into God’s house to hear his word and give thanks to God for the Scriptures.
Finally, David says that God “knoweth” the proud and haughty only from afar.  As we enter worship, humility is needed. We come to bend the knee to God’s Word and His will. The proud are cast down in worship, but the humble repent and grow.
Hymn of Thanksgiving: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, p. 227
Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. During Advent we look back to the time before Christ was born, but we also look forward to the time when he will come again. It is a season of waiting.  This hymn reflects that longing for Christ that was in the heart of every true Israelite before Jesus came and should be in our hearts too as we look for the coming of our Lord.
One cool part of this song is how each verse begins with an Old Testament name of Jesus.
Emmanuel means “God with Us” and is used in Isaiah 7:14 and quoted in Matthew 1:23.
Lord of Might is a paraphrase of one of Isaiah’s favorite names of God “Lord of Hosts.” This phrase is used 50 times in Isaiah. It means Lord of armies and refers to God’s power and might.
Rod of Jesseis found in Isaiah 11:1 in the King James Version where God promises to send a king to rule.
Dayspringmeans sunrise and probably refers to Jesus as the great coming light, which is mentioned in Isaiah 60:1, 19.
Key of Davidcomes from Isaiah 22:22 where the Lord says he will lay the Key of David on Eliakim who is a type of Christ.  In 22:22 God says he will lay the keys on Eliakim’s shoulder, which points back to Isaiah 9:6 where it is said that the government will be upon Jesus’ shoulder.
The main point of the song is that the coming of Christ brings gladness and joy as all our enemies are put to flight.
Worship Song #1: Psalm 63 (O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly), p. 93
Psalm 63 is a beautiful meditation by King David on his longing for God.  If you look in your Bible you will see that David wrote this psalm when he was in the wilderness of Judah fleeing from King Saul.  Two verses sum up David’s love for God and God’s love for David. First, verse 1 declares that apart from God David will die. He will go hungry. He will go thirsty. His flesh will waste away. Second, in verse 3 he says that the lovingkindness of God is better than life to him.  The word in Hebrew is “chesed” or God’s covenant faithfulness or mercy.  God’s love for David is better than breath. He would rather die than be cut off from God’s love.
The tune is a bit melancholy, emphasizing David’s longing for God and his mercy. Notice here that David longs to go into God’s house. While the tabernacle and Temple have been done away with, God’s people should still long to be in God’s presence and worshiping with other saints. God is always with us, as he was with David in the wilderness. However, there is a special presence of God in worship. It is in within his house that we see the “glories of his grace.”
Worship Song #2: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, p. 315
How impoverished our hymn singing would be without Charles Wesley!  Wesley begins this great hymn with praise and then, as usual, fills it with wonderful images of God’s kindness to us in Christ.
My favorite line in the song, and one of the most theologically rich, is the first phrase in verse 4, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin.”  Here, in one short phrase, Wesley speaks of both sanctification (breaking sin’s power) and justification (sin being cancelled).  He reminds us that Jesus forgives, but by His Spirit, he also gives us power to overcome sin.
Wesley also gives us a great picture of salvation when he says that Jesus “speaks and listening to His voice new life the dead receive” (verse 5).   First, Wesley understands that we are dead and need to be raised.  We don’t need more education. We need resurrection.  Second, he understands that Jesus’ voice is what raises us.  Wesley probably has John 10:3 and 16 in view as well as the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11:38-44.

Finally, Wesley began his hymn wishing for a thousand tongues to praise God. He ends the hymn with a call to all the redeemed to employ their tongues in praise to God (verse 6).

I encourage you to practice these songs as a family or listen to them online as you prepare to enter God’s house. 

Weaknesses in Worship: Part I

William Willimon is one of most insightful and provocative writers around today, especially on issues of worship and sacraments. He is also a Methodist. That means he has bought hook, line and sinker women’s ordination and other faults of the Methodist church. Despite this, his books are worth reading because he forces you to examine your presuppositions. Also his writing is lively, which makes him fun to read. In his book, A Guide to Preaching and Leading Worship, he lists some of the common weaknesses in worship. I am going to take each weakness Willimon mentions and discuss how my church attempts to correct that weakness.

The first weakness Willimon mentions is that many services lack focus and coherence in the acts of worship. “The service moves in several different directions at once. ” In other words the service is just a mishmash of songs, prayers and a sermon with little plan or direction. How does it all fit together? Willimon mentions the use of a lectionary and the church year as solutions to this problem of lack of coherence. We use the church year. However, our lectionary is tied to the word preached and I preach through books of the Bible. So we do not use a lectionary that skips from book to book.

While I am not opposed to either of these, the best way for coherence and direction in worship is to have the service move in a Gospel centered direction. The Gospel is what we preach and our services should have this as their mold. In my circles this is known as covenant renewal worship, but is done by other groups that do not use that name.

Here is how it works. Our service has a specific direction and movement. Each piece of the service leads to the next piece. The service begins with sinners being brought into the presence of a holy God. Those sinners then confess they are sinners and plead the shed blood of Christ. They are then forgiven and sanctified by God’s Word. They eat a meal of peace with God (the Lord’s Supper) and then are sent out to be salt and light in the world. This is how we experience the Gospel in our lives and therefore this forms how we do worship. The pattern is the same every week because the Gospel never changes. Luther was once asked, “Why do you preach the Gospel every week?” He said, “Because you forget every week.” That is why for us at Christ Church, we have the same pattern of worship every week. Below is a short look at our service. If you would like a more extensive look you can go to our church website and look at the “Our Worship” tab for a full liturgy.

Called to Worship by God
Confession of Our Sins
Consecration by God’s Word
Communion with Christ and His Body
Commissioned to Go Out and Preach Christ to the World