By the Rev. Will Weedon
LCMS Director of Worship, International Center Chaplain

One of the treasures that has come down to us from the ancient church is the Bidding Prayer.
It is still used in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday and only there in that rite. Yet it represents the form that the prayer of the church used to have in the Sunday Divine Service of the Roman rite before the intercessions migrated into the Roman canon and lost their ancient spot.

The Lutheran church retained it in several orders, though modifying it from its peculiarly Roman features. It has regularly appeared in our Synod’s official worship books since the adoption of the Common Service.

For it to be properly used, rubric six on Page 512 of the Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book ought be observed: “When praying the Bidding Prayer, it is appropriate to pause in silence between the bid and the petition.”

I’d add that it is pointless to pause unless you pause long enough to make sure that the congregation has time to actually pray individually for that which has just been bidden. In gauging the timing for the silence, a good rule of thumb is to offer a silent Lord’s Prayer following each bid. That will allow adequate time for the individuals gathered to intercede as bidden.

That is, after all, the genius and beauty of the Bidding Prayer. It provides great scope for individual prayers to be offered, and then all those scattered individual prayers to be gathered in the Collect that the pastor speaks out on behalf of the interceding assembly, to which all respond with a resounding “Amen!”

Where kneelers are present (or even where they are not!), it is fitting to observe the ancient practice of both kneeling and standing. Anciently, the deacon would bid the prayer, and the subdeacon would then tell the congregation to kneel. They remained kneeling for the entire time and they silently prayed for the intention indicated in the bid. At the end of the silent prayer time, the subdeacon would tell the people to stand. Then the celebrant would speak the Collect and the people would add their amen. Then the next bid and the same practice followed.

A few years ago, my congregation used this manner of praying at the conclusion of Vespers. I’ll not forget my daughter’s comment upon leaving church: “I really like that. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed in church before.” Well, I think I knew what she meant, but I suspect it will be a refreshing practice for many of our members. We used it at the Unwrapped Campus Ministry conference in January 2013 and it was very well received. I’d encourage you to try this ancient union of individual and corporate prayer!

About Unwrapping the Gifts
Unwrapping the Gifts is a bimonthly publication of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Worship Ministry devoted to providing resources for worship. Everyone involved in planning worship is encouraged to subscribe to the Unwrapping the Gifts RSS feed.

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