A seasoned, senior minister was once heard to say, “I’d rather read books of prayers from God’s people, than to read books about prayer, the how-to of praying. Prayers of the great souls of God provide me with mentors of the heart, setting me free to bring all my thoughts, passions, fears, hopes, and dreams into God’s presence.”
In his own masterful style with words, John Killinger has provided the reader with an ample supply of actual prayers, calls to worship, affirmations of faith and prayers of confession in Lost in Wonder, Love & Praise: Prayers for Christian Worship.
In addition to these categories of prayer, the volume includes pastoral, offertory and communion prayers. The book concludes with examples of benedictions to be spoken as blessing upon God’s people as they depart from worship to enter the world’s fields of service.
Killinger acknowledges the limitations of language and words in worship when he cites T.S. Eliot’s observation that words “slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision,” but they are the best humans have as we combine them with silence to bring worshipers into God’s presence.
Killinger describes worship leaders as matadors. “The liturgist turns, feints, pirouettes, flashing the cape this way and that, sculpting the moment with words, pauses, rhythms, until the congregant has been completely drawn into the play and is no longer aware of reluctance or surroundings, but has surrendered to the true spirit of prayer.”
As this image suggests, even through prayer, the worship leader can use words to touch a person’s heart and soul in the worship experience.
This feature of the book is expressed through drawing from all dimensions of life: race relations, money and human sexuality. Some people may feel these an inappropriate use of words in prayer, but an incarnational approach to the Christian faith and life demands it.
The prayers compiled in the volume do have a history. They were used previously in actual services of worship with the congregations Killinger has served in Virginia, California and Michigan, who were Presbyterian, Congregational and non-denominational churches respectively.
A helpful feature of the book is found in the prayers it includes for special days and seasons of the year. The reader will find specialized prayers for the seasons of Advent, Lent and Easter and prayers for Mother’s and Father’s Days, Independence Day, New Year’s Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Memorial Day.
Killinger has invested his life as a pastor and professor. The volume could have been strengthened if he provided a paragraph or two in each chapter defining the functions of the various prayers used in a worship service.
Also, one might ask where written prayers find their place in worship styles which are now moving in the direction of multi-media presentations, praise teams and bands and more vocal and bodily participation in worship. In that regard, the prayers may have a limited appeal to the worship planner and leader.
But as a resource and stimulant for those who develop orders of worship, Lost in Wonder, Love, & Praise is worth its purchase price.
Ron Wilson is pastor at First Baptist Church in Hartselle, Ala.