On Friday we shared a sort of mish-mash of prayer ideas here, but things have continued to escalate. As of Sunday evening, the commonwealth of Massachusetts has “banned” gatherings of 25 or over, effectively shutting down all church worship services (on top of schools, extracurricular programs, dine-in restaurants, and so forth) until early April. Other state governors are moving in this direction, too. So a tangible need for prayer resources for homebound families and individuals is definitely growing.
To that end, I’ve sorted through the material previously presented, and arranged it into a coherent and usable Order of Prayer.
You can download a simple Word Document of it here: Prayers in time of infectious disease
Or you can download a pdf version, formatted such that if you print it double-sided it can fold into a nice little booklet, here: Prayers in time of infectious disease -two-sided version
At present, this is only available in the contemporary language idiom, in accord with the 2019 Prayer Book. I will, however, use its new traditional language edition to make another version of it for those who prefer the beauty of the Old Way!
How does this Office work?
Let’s talk about this thing a little bit.
First of all, this is an extra-liturgical devotion. That means it is not a replacement for Morning Prayer, Evening, Prayer, the Great Litany, or any other Prayer Book service or office. It is its own thing. It is modeled after the order of the basic offices, however.
Opening Verses – Two opening verses are provided, and they both point us to the provision and providence of God. He is the source of mercy and forgiveness (Daniel 9:9) and salvation and deliverance from death (Psalm 68:20).
Psalm 146 – This is the Psalm that showed up in four different lists, or categories, of psalms that were mentioned by Archbishop Beach in his statement nearly a week ago. Psalm 146 calls upon God’s people to place their trust in Him, and not “in prince, nor in any child of man.” God’s loving care for various vulnerable echelons of society and humanity are rehearsed, and the psalm both begins and ends with the great laudate – praise the Lord!
Lessons – Like Midday Prayer or Compline, just a little snippet of Scripture is to be read. This is primarily an office of prayer, after all. But the Scriptures must nevertheless guide our prayers, and so we hear from Philippians 4 or Jeremiah 17 or James 5; the first two of which remind us not to be anxious, and the third reminds of the penitential reality of hard times: there is a very important link between sickness and confession of sin.
The Prayers – Again like Midday Prayer and Compline, we start off with some basics – here the Kyrie (Lord have mercy…) and the Lord’s Prayer. These are followed by the prayer from the 1662 Prayer Book that I mentioned on Friday.
The Five Collects – This is the unique feature of this office of prayer. Five groups of prayers (most of which are collects, but let’s not get hung up on nit-picks) are appointed:
- Preparatory Prayers = more generic prayers to set the tone and capture the spirit of the times
- For those who are vulnerable, at risk, or sick = specific petitions for various demographics and groups, ultimately praying for the suffering and the needy
- For those who are responsible for others = specific petitions for those who care for the sick, for the infrastructure and leadership, and even the media, all of whom play they parts for good or for ill during a crisis
- For peace of mind = these prayers are especially for the benefit of you, us, all who are praying, so that God’s people might be a people of peace, and not of fear
- Concluding prayer = prayers that turn it all back over to God, or even adopt a posture of thankfulness for his action already
The idea is that you pray one prayer from each of these five categories, thus customizing this office to the need or passion or concern of the moment, and preventing it from becoming overly long and burdensome. If you have the stamina and attention span and time to pray more of these prayers, by all means do! It is the progression of these five sorts of prayers that is important: Setting the Scene, Praying for those in need, Praying for those who act, Praying for ourselves, and Placing it all in God’s hands, is a logical and spiritually sound movement of prayer that I believe will be a refreshing and grounding for the panicked soul.
The Blessing – Despite the near-universality of 2 Corinthians 13:14 as a closing blessing, I opted instead for the beginning of Psalm 67, which calls upon God’s “saving health”. This is, I think the perfect double-meaning for such an office of prayer, health referring both to bodily wholeness as well as spiritual wholeness – salvation.
It is my hope that mini-offices of prayer such as this one will help many find peace in these times of turmoil, and steer the storm-tossed soul on a steadier path of faithful prayer.