All Saints Anglican  All Saints’ Church
Greenville, SC REC Reformed Episcopal ACNA Anglican Church in North America Parish 1928 BCP 1928 Book of Common Prayer Divine Hours Daily Offices Breviary terce sext compline prime vespers

Week 9

Liturgical note: Over and again we have stressed that the liturgy is active. It is the work of the entire people of God (not just the priest). You will not remember every detail of this study or every point we discuss. Therefore it is vital that you remember this one single governing theme:

At every point in the service you are to be doing something.

Not only that if you will listen the service will tell you what that something is (be it “let us pray”, “let us confess our sins”, or “let us hear and receive the reading of God’s Word”).

 

Liturgical Location: we have begun the liturgy of the Sacrament and are preparing for the fellowship of the Lord’s Table. As we do so, the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church begins this preparation by reminding us of the source, manner, and scope of our prayers. First, we are reminded that our prayers are to be Scripture directed. That is, we are to seek from God’s hand those things that God’s Word tells us He longs for us to have. Next, we are not to approach God’s throne casually but reverently. Finally, we are not to come with just our own concerns but rather we are to seek the well-being of all men everywhere. Why? The fellowship and grace we enjoy at the Table extend to all God’s people (thus we have a shared responsibility and hope). At the same time, we pray for unbelievers, especially in light of the Church’s ministry to them. Why? Unbelief is the Church’s concern. As such, the Prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church expands our own prayers to reflect very nature and extent of the Table (the Table is not private. The Table nourishes God’s people for service and witness in the world).

 

Notice then, the prayer’s first concern is for the biblical grounding and fidelity of the entire Church (without which there will be no health for the Church or the unbeliever). 

 

II. Prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church

 

B] Prayer for the Biblical Grounding and Fidelity of the Church

beseeching thee to inspire continually the Universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord: And grant that all those who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love.

 

Notice at once that there are two parts to this section of the prayer. The first part views the Church in terms of its corporate nature. The second part views the Church in terms of its individual believers.  In the first part we are viewing the Church as a collective whole, as a distinct polity, as a corporate witness. Thus, our focus at this point of the prayer is not on what Joe the REC missionary is doing but rather it is on what the REC (and all the other denominations) are doing. How are they presenting Christ to the world? How are they nurturing their people? How are they working together with one another?

 

Importance: remember, the Church is not merely a collection of believers. Rather, it is Christ’s body under Christ’s government and equipped by Christ’s Holy Spirit. It is through this structure that God implements both His care for His people and His witness to the World. Think about it: at no point are we left to make it on our own. Rather, we are baptized into (not just a local congregation but) the Body of Christ. And it is through the leadership and the fellowship of the Body that both parish and parishioner are nurtured and built up. At the same time, it is through the leadership and the fellowship of the Body that the truth of Scripture is taught, guarded, and set forth. Thus, we begin by praying for the Church as the corporate Body.

 

Notice then what we ask: we ask God to inspire the entire Church (and each group within it) with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord.

Truth- we ask that the Church would receive, live, and proclaim the truth of God’s  

Word.

Unity- we ask that the Church would maintain unity in the essential doctrines of the Faith and that each group in the Church would acknowledge that unity in the other faithful groups.

Concord- we ask that the various groups in the Church would work together in mutual love and cooperation.

 

Importance: notice (1) the specific order of the request, (2) how this order is a direct reflection of Scripture, and (3) the way that each item of the request builds upon and requires the one before it. Thus, we begin with faith in the truth of God’s Word. From that faith then come salvation and unity. From salvation and unity then come love and concord. In contrast, it is interesting to note that the revisionist in the church today suggest the very opposite order. They call for everyone to get along (concord) so that we can remain united so that we can continue to negotiate over what is true. Such a model is doomed to fail in that it ignores the essential nature of the Church.

 

          2) Next, notice the second part of this section of the prayer turns to consider the Church in terms of its individual believers. Importance: Biblical unity never diminishes the value of the individual, their ministry, or their responsibility. Rather, Biblical unity fosters these. Notice then what the prayer asks concerning individual believers: first, we ask that all those individuals who profess to be Christians would agree in the truth God’s holy Word. However, please note what this request does not ask: It does not ask that all believers would agree with each other about what the Bible teaches. Instead, it asks that all believers would agree with God’s Word. In other words, Scripture not man is the standard. Notice then, human agreement follows from and matters only after there is agreement with God’s Words.

 

Importance: notice the centrality of God’s Word throughout the prayer. Over and again the prayer draws our attention back to Scripture as God’s Word and the source of our health.

 

Second, we ask that each individual believer would exhibit mutual love and cooperation toward their brothers and sisters in Christ (sharing ministry, assisting those in need, and avoiding pointless quarrels over pedantic points of doctrine).

 

Importance: notice at once that we have prayed basically the same thing for the individual members of the Church as we did for the Church as a whole. As such, I am reminded that my life as a believer has been incorporated into the Body of Christ. Therefore, I am to reflect both the walk and the work of God’s people down through the ages.

 

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