The Prayer Book and Public Worship (pp. 42-46)

“The printed prayers are no less sincere, then?” asked the Doctor.
“Not necessarily so,” replied the Rector. “Any prayer may be insincere. Sincerity is not in the prayer whether written or spoken, but in the heart of him who utters it. You may be quite as lacking in the spirit of worship in merely listening to a prayer as in reading it. It depends upon an inner condition that is quite apart from the method
“Some men have the gift of prayer; others have not. There is no greater burden placed upon a minister than to utter before a congregation a prayer that really carries upward the hearts and minds of the people.”
“But do the written prayers accomplish that?” asked the Doctor.
“They at least enlist every particle of the spiritual energy of the people,” said the Rector. “They make the act of prayer a positive act of the person, rather than a mere act of attention. And more than that, they cover every need, every aspiration, every sorrow, every hope of human life. Every person who attends church comes with his particular burden, his especial need. The prayers range over every phase of spiritual experience. They bring comfort to the sorrowing, hope to the burdened, courage to the tempted, joy to the despondent, and forgiveness to the penitent. Everyone who comes to Church with sincerity finds in the prayers some message to his own soul. The congregation in Church is like a group of voyagers on an ocean liner. Each is going on a different errand, for a different purpose, animated by a different motive. Yet for a time they share the same great pathway of an ocean voyage and mould their varied purposes into one great experience. Our services are like that. For a time all sorts and conditions of men share a great spiritual voyage in the service, in which each finds something which blends with his individual purpose. The prayers are so sublime, so free from any but the highest sanctions, so full of the needs of our common human nature, so complete in their religious expression, that no one need seek help there and not find it.

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