Pray the Litany daily

It was theologian Andrew Davison who I first read suggesting that the Litany be prayed daily during this pandemic.  It is a recommendation that should be acted upon by Anglicans across the globe.  Other traditions have their means of encouraging prayer and intercession at this time. Pope Francis, for example, called for Roman Catholics to pray the Rosary with him on Thursday evening.  In the Anglican tradition, it is the Litany which has been our 'go to' in times in crisis, a holding up of individuals and communities, Church, commonwealth, and world in sustained intercession.

In their letter addressing the crisis, ++Canterbury and ++York urged "all clergy to continue their pattern of daily prayer" as "an offering of prayer and praise for the nation and the world".  We might be rather disappointed that they did not explicitly mention the Litany - which 1662 directs should be prayed "upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays" - but, after a generation of neglect of the Litany, this is hardly surprising.  However, it is in the Litany that we find a means of sustaining us in prayer "for the nation and the world".  And it is to the Litany that we should now turn daily.

Other resources or extemporary prayer will often lack both the comprehensiveness of the Litany and its robust theological underpinnings.  It is unlikely, for example, that other resources or extemporary prayer will petition - as does the Common Worship Litany - for deliverance "in the hour of death, and at the day of judgement".  Similarly, the manner in which the Litany grounds our intercession in the Holy Trinity and in the redemption wrought by Our Lord Jesus Christ is unlikely to find any significant or meaningful echo in other resources or extemporary prayer.  I refer here to the Common Worship form of the Litany to make the point that we should be praying the Litany in either its contemporary or traditional forms: the important issue is that we are praying in this sustained, comprehensive form.

In the absence of public worship at this time, the Litany also provides all Anglicans with a form of prayer and intercession that can easily be used in the home, in the garden, or an individual's walk.  Precisely because it does not rely on our own resources, insights, knowledge, or recollection, it provides a means of prayer for the nation and the world that gathers up before the Holy Trinity the needs of all.

There can be no doubt about the crisis that societies across the globe are now facing.  The threats to life and to the common good are serious.  The stress placed upon government, health services, and communities is immense.  The fear and uncertainty experienced by entire societies is palpable.  It is a time for the Church to pray earnestly, to uphold all these concerns - in a sustained, comprehensive manner - before the God who is Creator and Redeemer.  For Anglicans, this means the Litany.  So let us pray the Litany daily, that all may be preserved during and delivered from this time of tribulation.

(With thanks to Andrew Davison for issuing this call.)

Comments

  1. Amen. Have you seen this: http://stmarksbr.org/litany-during-a-pandemic/ ?

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    1. Sam, many thanks for your comment. I had not seen the link - very interesting. I like its traditional 'feel'. My instinct is that it could be used alongside the Litany, rather than replacing it. (It does not, for example, pray for those in authority: very necessary at this time.) But, yes, a very useful supplement.

      Stay safe,
      Brian.

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  2. I like the Great Litany in the 1979 Episcopal PBk..more like Cranmer but less rooted in the world of the 16c

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    1. Marc, thank you for your comment although I am not entirely in agreement. I think a good case could be made for keeping the Litany rooted in the 16th century rather than the historically unusual circumstances of Western societies in the late 20th century, with their assumptions that civil and religious strife, pandemics, and sudden death are things of the past. The first 20 years of the 21st century indicate much greater continuity with the 16th century.

      That said, the Great Litany in TEC's BCP 1979 does follow Cranmer in some quite significant ways lost in other contemporary Litanies.

      Brian.

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