Praying for the World and Preparing for Holy Communion
By Father Wade Miller
The Anglican tradition is unique in that we are not a confessional church, nor are we a denomination that seeks to elevate the thoughts of one theologian like a St. Augustine, Luther, or Calvin as the sole guide for our identity. We are a tradition that seeks to be faithful to the consensus of Christendom throughout the ages, which is steeped in a life of prayer. The Latin phrase, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi simply means the rule of prayer is the rule of our belief. Prayer, however, is not simply following one’s own gut or feeling, it is guided by Scripture, which has been prayed and modeled by the Church throughout the ages. The Psalms are often called the Prayerbook of the Bible as they are to be mediated upon and spoken back to God.
Preparation for entering God’s presence is vital. We prepare to receive his goodness and grace, and to offer our sacrifice of thanksgiving. That is why it is important to arrive at the church a little early before Mass, so that we can kneel in prayer as we prepare to meet our God. Although this exercise of preparing for worship is an exceptionally good practice, the Preparation Prayers demonstrate what the priest is doing. If you hear whispers from the altar, or see the lips of the priest moving, he is not talking to himself. He is talking to God. He is saying prayers from the greater tradition of the Church, and directly from Scripture, as he prepares to offer or re-present the once and for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The priest is set apart by God through the laying on of hands to lead the rest of the priesthood (all baptized Christians) into this mystical participation of the Holy Eucharist. With fear and trembling the priest comes before the majesty of God in order that we might offer our souls and bodies as a living sacrifice to our Creator. This is to be done with great reverence because our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
Prayer is not only a preparation to meet God; it is an act of charity as well. That is why we are to pray for the whole world. We pray for the sick. We pray for the despondent. We pray for the Governor. We pray for the President. In other words, we pray for all! We do not pray for those with whom we like or admire, we pray for all, even our enemies. An example of such admonition to pray for all people is found in I Timothy 2:1-8. We are told that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks should be made for all, including civil authorities and earthly powers. When we pray for others, we are seeking to live selfless lives, which is our sacrifice to God.
Prayer, like the Christian life, has a two-fold dimension. It is directed vertically towards God as we extol His goodness and grace, recognizing that He alone is the answer to our greatest need. Prayer, however, has a horizontal dimension as well. We pray for others just as our Lord prayed for the Church (see: Luke 22:41-44; John chapters 13-17). In Christ, we see a perfect example of love for God and neighbor. That is why prayer is so important. It enables us to live out the two greatest commandments, which are stated at the beginning of each and every Mass (Matthew 22:37-40).
St. Paul instructs the church to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). In other words, we are to be in a constant state of prayer. Morning and Evening Prayer help us in this endeavor. In Mass, however, we are given the grace to strive towards a life of love by praying sacrificially as we enter into that most holy time, joining with the saints, angels, and our brothers and sisters in Christ giving all glory, laud, and honor to God, and praying for others made in His image. Prayer, therefore, is the metaphorical blood that runs through the veins in the life of the body of Christ – the Church whose head is Christ the Lord.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. - I Timothy 2:1-8