Leading Prayers of the People

Updated 26 Aug 2018

By the Rev'd Canon Ed Swayze

In the first letter of Peter, the church is described as the priesthood of all believers. The Torah teaches us that the work of the priesthood is to mediate between God and people, and prayer is bringing people's concerns to God. So prayer is part of the work of the church; it invites God to work in the lives of people.

When we pray, we talk with God about situations that concern us, events in our personal lives:  the birth of children, the death of loved ones, crises we go through, situations happening in our community, and concerns we hear on the news such as war, natural disaster, elections.

When we pray, we express our feelings to God, our feelings of joy, thanksgiving, anger, doubt, and sorrow.

When we pray, we remind God of his promises in the scriptures, and ask God to act. Hearing scripture read or a sermon preached, may bring to remembrance something in  need of prayer.  Our prayers could tie in things that were said in the scriptures of the day and the sermon.

The Prayers of the People then should reflect what we, as a community, want to tell God. The person leading the Prayers of the People helps us to pray as a worshipping community. From the rubrics p. 190 Book of Alternative Services (BAS),  "A deacon or lay member of the community leads the Prayers of the People after the following model. Intercession or thanksgiving may be offered for the Church, the Queen and all in authority, the world, the local community, those in need, and the departed."

At St. Stephen's, a Participants List is emailed to the person leading the prayers, and on it the date, service, participants and the litany are noted.

Ideally the person leading the prayers should take some time to prayerfully prepare the prayers at home. Printed prayers are aids to help us pray as a community; the person leading the prayers uses them to help us pray. Extemporaneous prayer is free prayer. He or she takes the concerns of the community, the Anglican, Indigenous, Diocesan,  and Parish Prayer Cycles in the bulletin, Parish Ministry Prayer Cycle, and the forms in the BAS or the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and blends them into the Prayers of the People. The Anglican Cycle of Prayer can be found at www.anglicancommunion.org the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer can be found at www.dioceseofalgoma.com, and the Parish Ministry Prayer Cycle is found below.

When the person leading the prayers arrives at the worship service, he or she should review the requests in the prayer request binder. At St. Stephen's people are invited to enter their prayer requests in the binder on the lectern in the middle of the nave. Requests are invited for: thanksgiving; the Church, Anglican, Algoma and St. Stephen’s; the World, Canada, Thunder Bay & Current River; those in need; and the departed. 

When praying for someone who has died, it is customary to say:

Rest eternal grant unto him/her
and let light perpetual shine upon him/her.

People who wish to lead the prayers of the people should let the Pastor or the Reader Coordinator know and they will be added to the list. Mentoring is available from other people who lead the prayers of the people and a training session is held as required.

Leading the Prayers of the People

The notes about 'Voice' and 'Lectern Light and Mike' in Reading a Lesson apply to Leading the Prayers of the People. 

The person leading the Prayers should tell people whether to kneel, sit or stand, and which page to turn to. Pay attention to the litany's introduction; Litany #6 directs people to stand. Sometimes people have been directed to sit, and then directed to stand. If need be, change the litany's introduction so that people are directed to sit in order to reflect the practice of St. Stephen's. 

Persons reading prayers should read them prayerfully. Short pauses are good; silence allows people to focus their thoughts or clear their mind and pray silently. 

Extemporaneous Prayer

The person leading the prayers may invite members of the congregation to voice their own prayer; a suggested wording is, "I invite you to make your intercession [or thanksgiving] either silently or aloud." He or she allows an appropriate period of silence so that people have the opportunity to pray, and then concludes with the response for the litany.

Preparing the Prayers of the People using the Book of Alternative Services (BAS)

There are different forms of prayer. The BAS has litanies, a bidding intercession, a responsive intercession and collects. A litany is a series of biddings, each followed by a common response such as `Lord have mercy`. Litanies are found on pp. 110-127. A bidding is a request to pray for something.  "Lord have mercy", or "Lord, Hear our prayer" are two responses; there are others. Also the litanies may be sung, music and directions are found on pp. 915-917. 

The person leading the prayers may modify them at his or her own discretion. From the rubrics p. 110 we read,  "In the litany, petitions may be altered or omitted according to circumstances. Other petitions may be added." A bidding may be omitted if it is less applicable.  Sometimes this is done to shorten the litany.  A confession is omitted if one occurs elsewhere in the liturgy.

Biddings may be altered, making them more specific by naming people or situations, ex.  Anne our Bishop, Justin our Prime Minister, Doug our Premier, and Keith our Mayor.  People who are to be baptized or married, or who have died may be added at the appropriate bidding.  Sometimes you have to look for a bidding to fit people in.

At the discretion of the person leading the Prayers of the People, the prayer cycles can be inserted before or after the litany or worked into it. In the case of the Prayers for the Candidate in the Baptism liturgy (p. 155-156 BAS), these prayer cycles are inserted between the litany and the concluding collect, and in the Confirmation liturgy (p. 627-628) they are inserted where the rubrics read 'Other prayers may be added."

To work the prayer cycles and Parish Prayers into the litany, the person leading the Prayers needs to pay attention to the literary structure of the litany. In the Diocesan cycle of prayer, we are asked to pray for parishes and their clergy.  In Litany #3, we can pray, "We pray for Anne our Bishop, for the Very Rev'd Jim McShane and for all bishops and other ministers". In biddings where we pray for Thunder Bay, we can add specific situations; for situations in our country and in the world, we can add situations that we hear on the news.

To add a bidding, identify the form of the litany, and then compose a bidding with the same form. From Litany #3, "We pray for the victims of our society and those who minister to them; that you will be their help and defense." It has 2 clauses. The first clause begins with, "We pray for", and it names someone to pray for, and the second clause begins with, "that", and it asks you to pray for them in a specific way. Biddings are added to a litany when there is something special to pray for, but not mentioned in the litany.  Litany #3 does not bid us to pray for anyone who has died.  We could add, "We pray for N who died and his/her family, that God may grant him/her peace and his/her family comfort."

Bidding Intercession #17 on p. 123. The leader bids people to pray about specific things, then pauses, and then concludes with a collect on the theme of the bidding. The rubrics for the bidding intercession read, "The leader should add particular intentions to each bidding. In the course of silence after each bidding, the people offer their own prayer, either silently or aloud." In the Solemn Intercession liturgy in the Good Friday liturgy, the leader reads the bidding and the Officiant reads the collect.

Responsive Intercession #18 on p. 128. Note the rubric, "The penitential section my be omitted." The liturgical principle here is each Eucharist needs only one confession. In this intercession, this confession or the one on p. 191 would be used, unless the Officiant directs otherwise.

Collects are found on pp. 129-132 and 675-684. These prayers focus on different themes such as a inner peace, the royal family or those in affliction.

Preparing the Prayers of the People using the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)

The practice in the BCP is for the person leading the prayers to read prayers called collects. Inviting the congregation to read them may vary this practice.

It is suggested that 3 or 4 collects be read as well as the Prayer Cycles and the Parish Prayers. For Morning Prayer read the Collect for the Clergy and People (p. 13), 2 other collects and conclude with the Prayer of St. Chrysostom (p. 15).

Other collects are found on pp 12-15, 39-61, and 728-736, of which the intercession on p. 57 and the thanksgiving on p. 736 are particularly suitable.

The person leading the prayers may exercise his or her creativity by selecting collects that best reflect the needs of the congregation and the themes reflected in the scriptures and the sermon.

See also


Prayer Cycle – Parish Ministries

1st Sunday of the Month

Pray that the Holy Spirit helps those who prepare and lead our worship so that we grow in faith and love, remembering especially the: Clergy, Music Director, Liturgy Committee, Altar Guild, Lay Readers, Choir, Servers, Readers, Prayer Leaders, Eucharistic Assistants, Sidespersons, and Cleaning Team.

2nd Sunday of the Month

Pray that God may bless Canon Ed, Archdeacon Eric, Rev'd Barb and the Wardens: Arlene and Janet, and the Parish Council that people may listen to each other and to God as they make decisions.

Pray that the people of St. Stephen’s will grow in knowledge and understanding of Jesus and the church and that our spiritual lives will be nourished, remembering especially the Sunday School: teachers and students, and the Youth.

3rd Sunday of the Month

Pray for the parish outreach that we will meet real needs and express the love of Christ through our missions, remembering especially: St. Stephen’s ministry at Chartwell Thunder Bay Retirement Residence, Dew Drop Inn, Current River Churches Food Cupboard, Mission to Seafarers, Canon Ed's ministry with the Navy, Camp Gitchigomee and PWRDF.

4th Sunday of the Month

Pray that the Holy Spirit builds up our parish family as a loving Christian family of faith, remembering especially the: Men’s Club, the Shepherd and parishioners who reach out and care for each other. Pray that the Holy Spirit will move in people’s hearts to provide the finances to run the parish and for the Finance Committee.

5th Sunday of the Month

Pray that churches may work together for God’s purpose, remembering the Council of Current River Churches: Calvin Presbyterian Church, Current River United Church, Refreshing Waters Community Church, Epiphany Lutheran Church, and Our Lady of Loretto Roman Catholic Church; and the Anglican parishes in the Deanery of Thunder Bay-North Shore and the Deanery Council.

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