This year, I was tasked with preparing the intercessions for midnight communion on Christmas Eve.
This is unusual, as I am not generally on that rota (I am usually on the rota for counting fire extinguishers). As far as I can remember, I’ve only ever written intercessions twice and one of those involved Powerpoint. But a lot of people are away this Christmas, so I volunteered.
Christmas Eve is uncharacteristically formal and we follow a printed liturgy – partly for the benefit of visitors and partly to ensure that things go to time. This lends the occasion a gravitas that tends to be missing, understandably, from Christmas morning – this is Christmas for grown-ups.
Personally, I like liturgy – the best liturgy is like the best poetry – the condensed sweet perfume and bitter almonds of language used for a high purpose.
So how to pray?
It’s easy to fall into the idea that intercessory prayer is the only game in town. But prayer can have many purposes and take many forms. Christians sometimes use the acronym ACTS as a reminder of the different purposes of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving and, pointedly last, supplication.
Prayer may be spoken or silent or sung; written down or extempore; individual and private or corporate and public; meditative or contemplative; short and raw or the finely crafted words of saints hallowed by centuries of use.
On this occasion, something rather formal and structured seemed to be called for and the presence of visitors suggested that responses at the end of each section might not be appropriate. I forgot to ask about length, so opted for something that fitted on one side of A4 and hoped that it was about right.
And how to intercede?
Well, it’s Christmas – so, obviously, World Peace and especially Syria, although you quickly realize that the list of places where there is conflict in our world is depressingly long. The collection would go towards local charities that support homeless people (a cause close to my heart) and refugees –so these were obvious subjects.
A quick check online showed that families with young children, peace in the Holy Land and the persecuted church were also considered suitable seasonal topics.
As the week progressed, events in Berlin turned all our thoughts back to the insidious cancer of terrorism and the realization that, in our shrinking and interconnected world, war may be waged as easily on the streets of peaceable democracies as in far away countries between people whose quarrels we struggle to understand.
read A Christmas prayer