For the epiphany service at our church I gave everyone in the congregation a grain of incense and invited them to place it in the burner. This would take place with the accompaniment of the Taizé chant ‘O Lord Hear My Prayer’. I invited everyone to use the opportunity to spend the time whilst this was going on in personal prayer for the coming year, their hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations. After the service, several members of the congregation commented that it was the first time they had prayed for them self and their family and that they often forgot to do it. On reflection, Anglicans often do not pray in this manner but instead it is seen as a corporate act. This is of course a good opportunity to pray for those big issues like the Middle East or the ministry of the diocese. However, life is a complicated business for all of us and we have many issues that we should be offering in personal prayer.
This morning I met with my spiritual director, an aging and infirm monk who has had continued to have a long and varied career as an Anglican Priest. Something he said sparked the makings of a worship idea that addresses this. You need to get hold of a small basket containing small wooden crosses (try SPCK or Wesley Owen) or an equivalent. For the intercessions each member of the congregation is invited to take one and carry it in their pocket throughout the coming week. They can bear their cross whenever they are reminded by it and offer their own prayers. There is no pressure to confide the things that you struggle with, your deepest seated worries or the argument you had with your kids this morning, you can share them with God. The following week, everyone can throw them back into the basket at the beginning of the service. At the point for intercessions, the crosses can be offered in corporate prayer and then redistributed to the congregation. This time people are invited to bear someone else’s cross and pray for them over the coming week. Hopefully this should build a greater sense of community and support for one another as well as giving people permission to pray for themselves.