In the Eucharist every Sunday Episcopalians have a chance to make prayer that rises from the midst of the congregation, expressions of bits and pieces of the torn or healed heart that are brought forward either aloud, or silently behind a reminder prayer said by an assigned leader.
The Prayers of the People - that's what we call them. But they are the prayers of the people only insofar as they literally arise from the lips of people or come forward in the silent prayers of individuals who are nudged by public prayer to bring names and concerns forward in their hearts and minds. So this business of leading the Prayers of the People requires a sensitivity to language, the use of silences, the gentle waiting for more hesitant voices, and a proper framing of the public invitation to prayer.
Over on People's Prayers, Chris Brennan Lee is working at the framing of prayers, based on reflecting on the readings of the day, taking note of the seasons of the church year, the events remembered in the lives of saints and the cares of the world. She is publishing two sorts of prayers - short prayers related to concerns she has, or that others have and she mirrors - and longer sets of prayers, "Prayers of the People" that are offered for use instead of one of the six forms offered in the Book of Common Prayer.
Until this week we in the greater outside world got the Prayers of the People at or shortly before the Sunday for which they were written.
Now however, beginning today, Chris is putting together Prayers of the People early enough in the week that they might be considered for and printed for use in services the following Sunday.
These prayers are a reminder that the intent of the Prayer Book was not that we be locked into the precise wording of one of the forms printed but that those forms might show the way for us to pray - marking moments of silence, public prayer, additional offerings from people, and various forms of liturgical drama - statements and choral or crowd response, movement from general to specific prayers and requests, possibly even movements from transactional prayer to transformative prayer. (How's that for a long sentence?)
Take a look at the Prayers of the People for the Third Sunday after Epiphany and consider using them in the Eucharistic gathering where you are. If they are not quite right for that gathering, think of ways to put together People's prayers in the community where you worship.
That's the point: The Prayers of the People can become the prayers of the particular people who make up a particular congregation, while at the same time reflecting the poetic and theatric sensibilities of our liturgical life. What it requires is practice, and we might remember that practice does not make perfect, practice is perfect. Our prayers are what they are, day by day.