The Prayers of the Faithful
With preparations of altar and people complete, the church joins together in prayer. The priest or deacon offers the "Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church.” These prayers are also called the "Prayers of the Faithful,” for historically it would only be those who were permitted to receive the Holy Mysteries who would be present at this time in the liturgy. Through this prayer we bring to God the requests of the whole church.
Unlike the Collect prayed earlier, which is a prayer in which we request to be prepared and empowered to be in God's presence and to mature as faithful citizens of the Divine Kingdom, this prayer is for the breadth of conditions of all people. We first pray that God receives our offerings (alms and oblations) and that the church would live in unity. The prayer continues, making mention of rulers and those in civil authority, ministers of the church, and all people in the congregation. Having offered general prayers for these various categories of people, the prayer proceeds to make request diving guidance and comfort for those who are in dire situations such as sickness, or in other physical or mental distress.
This Prayer then culminates with prayers for the dead, reinforcing that the unity for which we prayed at the outset of the prayer is more than just physical unity with those we are in contact with daily; it is also a spiritual unity with all the saints. As a result, we pray for the continual growth of those who have gone before us and that we would follow in their good example.
Through this time of Prayer we are reminded of our confession in the Nicene Creed previously during the Eucharist liturgy, for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, or of the Apostles’ Creed recited during our baptism, when we confessed our belief in the communion of Saints. We are not alone in our journey through life, nor are we alone as we approach the heavenly altar. The Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church reinforces that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both those who have died and those who remain. As a result, when we face diverse challenges in life, we can be confident that we do not face them alone, but that we are surrounded by those who pray for us and desire to be an encouragement to us in the midst of these challenges.
When we approach these Holy Mysteries of the Eucharist, we do so not out of divisiveness and division, but out of unity and common purpose. This prayer helps to focus our thinking towards this unity. Given our propensity for division, though, it is no wonder that the next part of the liturgy is the confession and absolution, for if we have realized any disunity on our part during the Prayers of the Faithful, it is important that we confess them before we approach the altar.
(As published in St. Luke's Sunday Bulletin, 7/1/18)