I go to a Baptist church, and while we are more liturgical than the average Baptist church, we’re still pretty Baptist. We don’t, for example, say the Lord’s Prayer every week.
But sometimes we do, and we did on Sunday.
I like reciting prayers and creeds and Scripture passages, for the same reason I like to sing old songs.
I like to feel the weight of generations past hovering around us. I like to think about the great cloud of witnesses joining along, reminding us of our place in a long line of faithful folks struggling to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. I like to breath the it-is-well-with-my-souls, the Jesus-Christ-his-only-son-our-Lords, the give-us-this-day-our-daily-breads deeply, absorbing those patterns of speech and the poetry of my tradition so far down into my subconscious that, as happened with my grandmother who suffered from Alzheimers, those words will remain even if other pieces of my life fall away.
Saying the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday reminded me of all these things and made me grateful for my community, a church that senses that the words we say, pray, and pass on are important.
You don’t have to be part of a church that recites creeds in unison, that writes prayers out in the bulletin, that uses a pipe organ, to be part of this tradition, though.
What I mean is, you can join in with generations of those early saints on your own, sitting in a room by yourself or while you’re at the sink washing dishes. You can welcome your child who is playing on the floor into a community of believers by praying or singing aloud as you rock in a chair nearby. And you can certainly do this with your family, before a meal.
It’s easy. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing Amazing Grace. Recite the Apostles Creed.
(You don’t know those? Well then, there’s a good place to start.)
On Sunday, as our church prayed out loud together, I heard something that really warmed my heart. A half beat behind the rest of us, a little girl’s voice called out each line. She was maybe 5 or 6 years old.
Our Father, who art in heaven—heaven…
Hallowed be thy name—thy name…
Forgive us our trespasses—passes…
She was across the sanctuary from me, and I couldn’t see her, but I could hear that precious, confident voice, joining with the generations.
She probably didn’t know what “hallowed” or “trespasses” meant, but she prayed with the rest of us, we adults who are so careful to line up our breaths and pauses with one another when we read or pray in unison. We don’t want our own voices to rise above the crowd, to single ourselves out. But she didn’t care in the least, happy as she was to simply join in.
She prayed with us.
And she prayed with the generations who’ve gone before us.
And she might have prayed with you, too.