In February 2003, our church hosted a guest speaker named Mar Enoch, and as he took the pulpit he prayed these words: Father we honor you and we adore and bless your name. For this is the chief end of man – that we may glorify you and enjoy you all the days of our lives. And so we join our voices with the unending hymn of praise sung by angels and archangels, principalities, powers, thrones, dominions; the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim who, covering their faces and feet flying to one another, singing and declaring that you are holy. The heavens and the earth are filled with your glory, and so we cry “Hosanna in the highest!”
And he went on…
This exceptional preacher also went by the name Veron Ashe, and at the time, he was an archbishop in the Mar Thoma Syriac Orthodox Church. He delivered the words of this prayer with deep feeling and emotion, but that wasn’t what arrested me – it was the words! The beauty and depth and theological substance were overwhelming. The sense that these words had been prayed in ancient times by men who were forerunners in faith and were now part of the great cloud of witnesses was also quite real.
My tradition frowned upon written prayers. They were never really considered as an option for several reasons. They were for people who didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, who didn’t know how to talk with him like a friend speaks with a friend. Written prayers were for folks who weren’t filled with the Spirit. Written prayers were also an “us vs. them” line of demarcation: the liberals and Catholics read their “prayers” but we prayed ‘em! Our prayers were sincere and personal and “anointed.” And the honest fact is, often times they were. But our prayers were often other things as well: rambling, awkward, theologically errant and emotionally indulgent. Hey – you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have…the facts of life (R.I.P. Alan Thicke).