Dear friends,

I grew up in a Jewish neighbourhood. Within a short walk from my house were (at least) three synagogues and no churches. There was a YMHA, not a YMCA. In other words, a Young Man’s Hebrew Association. My family drove several miles to a small Baptist church. My experience of Christianity was limited to that little church. When I was 12 (?) I started going to Boy Scouts. Later my “troop” (please pardon me if I do not remember the right terminology) went to a large scout gathering with many troops for a long weekend camping experience. We had a “chapel” service on Sunday morning. We all marched in to the clearing. The scout leader, who was off to the side, put out the cigarette that he was smoking and walked to the centre and began “the service.” I put “the service” in quotes because, as a young 13-year-old Baptist I felt everything about the service was not Christian. The “service” consisted of the man reading a few Bible quotes and reading other stuff and reading prayers. I still remember thinking to myself, “Real Christians do not read prayers, they pray in their own words from their heart.” To my shame, I looked down my 13-year-old nose at the scout leader.

It obviously is a proof of God’s sense of humour that eleven years later I stumbled into an Anglican church and felt like “I had come home.” It is also proof of God’s sense of humour and justice that I have now been an ordained Anglican presbyter for over 30 years, praying written prayers, and I regularly have to defend the practice to people who have grown up in the faith in churches that do not have written prayers.

Can real Christians use written prayers? Yes. The Bible teaches this. First, the Bible records many written prayers – surely they were written to teach us how to pray – surely they were written so we could “pray along” with them. Second, the Book of Psalms are to be prayed and sung. The psalms are prayers (to be sung and/or read) that God Himself wrote for us. Pause on this. No one complains about a hymn or praise song that is not Christian because we are all singing the same written words. Very few people (if any) would say real Christians each sing whatever words and tunes spring to mind when everyone is singing.

Finally, Jesus Himself is responsible for a written prayer which He tells us to pray. Jesus said, “Pray then like this: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9) “And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, SAY: “Father, hallowed be Your name Your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2)