we ask you to give us your blessing
to your church, holiness
to the world, peace
to this nation, justice
and to all people knowledge of your law.
Keep safe our families
protect the weak
heal the sick
comfort the dying
and bring us all to a joyful resurrection.
We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Anglican Prayer Book
(The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, 1989)
THIS prayer is part of morning and evening prayer in the daily Office of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The Anglican Prayer Book (1989) is a rich resource for churches and individuals, contained in one reasonably compact book, and it has been a significant asset in the life of the Church in South Africa. Sadly, there is no comparable prayer book available now in the Church of England, except the Book of Common Prayer.
I have used this daily Office for many years. It is based on the liturgy that was introduced in 1975, and has a simplicity and a depth that make it an excellent basis for a pattern of daily prayer, either alone or with others.
The Office contains the key elements of praise, thanksgiving, confession, and absolution, listening to the word of God, and intercession. The prayer quoted here provides a framework for our daily intercession. It is one that I use every day of my life, in one pattern or another.
The prayer can be said simply and quickly as an overarching intercession for the needs of the Church, the world, our families, and those in need. But I find that it is most useful as a foundation for my daily intercessory prayer, and it can easily be expanded to take up five or ten minutes of praying.
Intercession is a vital component of our praying. Prayer is, in essence, relationship with God. God is our father, and we are his children. Jesus teaches us that when we come to God in prayer, we should not be hesitant to ask him for the things that we need, and to bring before him the cries of our hearts. We have the promise of Jesus that, when we ask in his name, our cries will be heard. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you,” Jesus says (Matthew 7.7).
“You do not have, because you do not ask,” James says (James 4.2). But there are so many needs around us. Not only do we have many personal concerns, but we are also constantly made aware of a world of suffering. It can feel overwhelming, as we consider how on earth we will find time to pray for all of this.
The short answer is that we pray as we can. We must not give up because the needs are so great. We are co-workers with God in the coming of his Kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven. And this work must begin and end in prayer, because, ultimately, it is all God’s work. Without him, we can do nothing (John 15.5).
When I use this prayer, I usually add some names or specific requests in each of the sections. There are those individuals or situations for which or for whom I pray every day. I pray for the Church and for my bishops and colleagues. I pray for the world, and I pray for the people of Syria and of South Sudan.
I pray for my family by name, often remembering the particular activities that each is involved in this day. I pray also for my friends, some 20 or so whom I try to remember every day. I pray by name for those whom I know to be ill or in trouble, and also for those who are dying, and for the recently bereaved.
But there is more. There are others for whom I try to pray regularly: those whom I am seeing for spiritual direction, or in other ministry. There are the parishes where I have previously been in ministry, and those who now lead them. There are those with whom I have a link who are working for social justice, such as PACSA, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and particular organisations I know who are engaged in evangelism and renewing the Church. And, of course, there is much more besides.
It is not easy to know how we begin to pray for all of this, and we know that there is always more. But we pray as we can, and we leave our requests and our cares in God’s hands. He knows our needs even before we ask, but he still expects that we, as his beloved children, will remember to ask for those things that we need.
Then, having asked, we can leave it all in his hands; for he alone is God, and we are simply the instruments of his peace.
The Revd Ian Cowley is Spirituality Co-ordinator for the diocese of Salisbury, and the author of The Contemplative Minister (BRF, 2015).