*** DEBUG END ***

Angela Tilby: Prayer with an eye on Ascensiontide  

12 May 2023


NOW that the Coronation is over and Ascensiontide is approaching, I offer for this week a gem of a prayer from the Church of Scotland’s Book of Common Order (1994). To me, it manages to sound both traditional and contemporary, without the jarring notes that quickly date:

Lord Jesus Christ,
We acknowledge your rule over every realm of life:
Subdue the world by the might of your love.

Son of Mary: consecrate our homes.
Son of David: cleanse our politics.
Son of God: grant us eternal life.

Jesus the Carpenter: hallow our daily work.
Jesus the Saviour: save us from ourselves.
Jesus the Life-giver: renew your Church.

Jesus the Crucified: reveal your love and power to all who suffer.
Jesus the King: raise us to live and reign with you for ever.
Jesus the Word of God: perfect your creation
And bring the world to the knowledge of your love.

I love the blend of the material and immediate with the eternal and permanent, the sudden sharpness of “cleanse our politics”, between a prayer for our homes and a plea for eternal life. The third stanza has an echo of the Lord’s Prayer in “hallow our daily work”; an address to the Saviour to save us from our greatest opponent — our own selves; and all before the renewing of the Church. The end is in the beginning, as Jesus the Word of God leads us back to the Prologue of St John’s Gospel, and all the way forward to the perfection of all things in the knowledge of God.

This prayer contains a faint echo of those Gaelic prayers collected at the end of the 19th century by Alexander Carmichael, and published in his influential Carmina Gadelica. I can somehow imagine shouting “Son of David, cleanse our politics!” into the wind of the Shetland Isles. It is no surprise to see that John Bell, of the Iona Community, was the convener of the worship panel that produced the 1994 book.

For me, the only truly uncomfortable note in the prayer is in the perhaps over-forceful “subdue” in the third line. And I instinctively want to add “whole” to “world”, to reinforce the rhythm at the end. But it is a good prayer for Ascensiontide, for personal or corporate dedication, for mission. We need more contemporary prayers of this quality: prayers that enable prayer that calls on tradition and uses simple, common words. Nothing flowery or excessive here — two criticisms often made of parts of Common Worship. It means what it says, and says what it means.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)