A few months ago I posted a brief, general-purpose liturgy for small-group meetings. It has worked out nicely for a couple of small groups I’m in. But I’m concluding that shorter, simpler, and easier to recite from memory is better.
I’m also realizing that for group prayer, I have a very strong bias toward call-and-response versicles. I'm convinced that when we say a familiar prayer together in that way, it helps promote a sense of community -- and of shared heritage -- far more than when one person prays whatever happens comes to his or her mind, and everyone else just stands around and listens.
Here are four easy-to-remember responsive prayers you can use at meetings, meals, etc. As you'll see below, you can fit in some extemporaneous prayers if you like, within the structure of the responsive prayers.
Three of these responsive prayers come straight from the Book of Common Prayer. Two of the four are from Psalms.
You probably know these prayers by heart already. If you don’t, you really ought to memorize them. They’ll help us pray better together.
Opening Versicle for Any Occasion — from Psalm 51.16, 11, BCP p. 657
Open my lips, O Lord,*
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,*
and renew a right spirit within me.
[This may be followed by extemporaneous prayers, and then by one of the prayers below]
Before a Meeting, Class, or Other Function — from Psalm 19.14, BCP p. 607
May the words of our mouths,
and the meditations of our hearts,*
Be always acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
A Grace Before Meals — attributed to John Wesley, Anglican priest
Be present at our table, Lord, *
Be here and everywhere adored.
Thy people bless, and grant that we
may feast in paradise with thee. Amen.
A Closing Prayer — adapted from the post-Communion prayer, BCP p. 365
Eternal God, heavenly Father,
Send us now into the world in peace,*
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen