Why I’m Learning to Pray the Prayers of Others

Woman praying in church
After I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was start to plan the nursery. I wanted to find a verse that we would pray for our daughter. Ever the seminary student, my husband had a suggestion. He wanted the first part of the Heidelburg Catechism hung on the wall above her crib. So I got crafty and printed it on a huge canvas for her room.

With all of the chaos in the headlines, I think this confession of faith, which is more than 450 years old, is helpful to remind us of who God is. This catechism, which has 52 questions and answers (one for every Sunday during the year), is part teaching tool and part confession of faith, and it’s still popular among reformed churches today.

Liturgy has seen a rise recently in even non-denominational churches that haven’t typically associated with these practices. But as more and more personal stories and studies reveal that Millennials are drawn to the “conversational and sacramental,” the holy repetition of liturgy is being embraced across denominational lines. One man describes his draw to these practices, despite an upbringing in a traditional Baptist church, “When I look at a Protestant service, it lacks the mystery and power of the body of Christ. … The whole life of the church, the prayers of the desert fathers, the blood of the martyrs, is more intimately connected in the Orthodox life than a mere stylistic change that a Protestant church can do.” There is a kind of undeniable power in liturgy and in the repeated practices of our spiritual forefathers.

An image of the Heidelburg Catechism

As I pray the Heidelburg Catechism over my life, there’s something reassuring about repeating the same words believers over the centuries have spoken. When there’s another shooting, another story of injustice, another pastor who suffers a moral failure, I go back to this. When it’s tempting to either become detached or to feel overwhelmed (where to even start to fight injustice?), I go back to this. When it’s hard to reconcile what we know about God with the brokenness we see in the world, I go back to this. The catechism reminds me our days are numbered but not spent. We can spend them wisely, in full assurance that Christ watches over us.

Whether we live our lives in comfortable Christianity or with the threat of death looming every day, these words remind me that we have the freedom to be brave because Christ is our comfort in life and in death. Our only comfort. We belong to him.

Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

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