THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
The Prayers of the People is the moment in which the participation of all of the people in worship is very visible. These prayers are generally led by lay ministers, and are reflective of the range of prayer concerns given to us in Scripture and of the beautiful variety of expression in prayer. We pray for the Church, our world, our community, and those in need and we acknowledge those who have gone before us in faith. There are many forms this time of prayer take, and several are included in contemporary prayer books. But each form emphasizes the participation of the whole people, silently or aloud. It is important for each member of the parish to intentionally bring his or her needs and thanksgivings, as well as those of their loved ones, and their neighbors and friends – of any in need or trouble. This is not something properly done by the clergy alone or even by professional staff. The people must gather to pray, and each person must offer prayer to God together with the whole people.
At this point a word about the Saints may be in order. Why do Anglicans pray for the dead? What is the Anglican view of the saints? In our public worship, Anglicans praise God for the example of those who have gone before us in faith, we pray for them to find rest, and we acknowledge our oneness with them in the body of Christ. Why? Because we put into our prayers what we believe – and with all Christians we believe that the saints await the resurrection just like we do. Our prayers for their rest and peace are prayers for the Day of Christ in which all of his saints will be resurrected and find eternal peace from in his new creation. Our acknowledgement of their examples of faith aids us in glorifying God by “following them as they followed Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 11.1). We talk about the saints as if they are present with us – because they are! We are mystically united with them as one body of Christ. All Christian traditions acknowledge the saints, but many downplay this aspect of faith for fear of “saint worship” or idolatry. However, our unity with all in the body of Christ, present or departed, is very real, and we truly “join our voices” with “all the company of heaven” each Sunday as we worship him.
Christians have long been divided on the private devotional act of praying “to” saints, requesting intercession by them, and of veneration of the saints themselves. While some Anglicans practice these private acts, our public liturgy sticks to the commonly held practices (praying for the saints, praising God for them, praying for grace to follow them in faith, and expressing our unity with them) as best fitting with Scripture and the public worship tradition of the whole of the Church.