How to Use the Congregation at Prayer
The Congregation at Prayer is a weekly devotional and catechetical guide for use in the home, the congregation, and the Lutheran school. The Congregation at Prayer unites the congregation around the same sections of the Word of God and catechism, and gives a common language for prayer and meditation upon the Scriptures. It is prepared by the pastor each week and distributed in the Sunday bulletin. It lives from the themes established on each Sunday of the church year and it looks forward to the coming Sunday. It helps families and individual Christians in prayer, reading the Scriptures, and learning the catechism at home. It teaches the congregation to use the Bible, catechism, and hymnal as daily devotional companions for the Christian faith and life. It is a useful tool in the pastor’s ongoing catechesis of the congregation, and is the recommended devotional guide for every board or committee of the congregation.
“Learn by Heart” goals for the week, from the Learn-by-Heart Edition of the Small Catechism, are printed to the right of the text of the catechism and indicate the age at which that portion of the catechism should begin to be memorized. For example, “1st +” indicates that that section of the catechism is intended as a “Learn by Heart” goal for children (and adults) beginning in the first grade and up.
The family that uses The Congregation at Prayer should not feel burdened to use all of the material; rather, they are to pray and confess out loud as much from the order of meditation and prayer as they are able, or as their family size and ages dictate. Special emphasis should be placed on learning by heart the verse, catechism, and hymn of the week.
EXPLANATION OF THE CONGREGATION AT PRAYER
The title, The Congregation at Prayer, highlights the purpose of the devotional and catechetical guide: it is to be used throughout the parish (home, congregation, and school) for all daily prayer, devotions, chapel services, classroom catechesis, study, and meetings of the congregation and school. The “Order of Meditation and Prayer” may be followed as a “stand alone” order for prayer in the home, classroom, or chapel service, or the particular readings, verse, Catechism, and hymn selections may be used as the “propers” for a daily office such as Matins or Vespers. The Congregation at Prayer lives from Sunday to Sunday around the themes of the church year and the Sunday propers. It is also tied to the local calendar of the entire parish.
The Verse for the Week is an assigned Bible verse ties in to the theme of the assigned Catechism for the week. The verse for the week may serve as an antiphon when praying the Psalter or it may be recited out loud by itself.
The Psalm for the Week is one of the psalms assigned to the Sunday in the church year for the week and may highlight the Catechism theme for the week.
The Catechism for the Week calls for praying through the Six Chief Parts and Table of Duties sequentially over a 36-week academic year.
Readings for the Week for the family and school are taken from the daily lectionary of the hymnal.
Prayers include the assigned collect for the week of the church year, daily themes for prayer based on ancient patterns for weekly prayer (these remain the same each week), and “In Our Prayers This Week,” which lists special needs and members for whom the congregation is praying. The prayers are concluded with the Lord’s Prayer and either the Morning or Evening Prayer from the Catechism.
The Hymn of the Week combines a listing of “general hymns” and hymns for specific weeks of the church year. The number of stanzas listed indicates the specific stanzas to be “learned by heart” by the practice of actually singing the hymn several times each day.
Looking Forward to Next Sunday provides the listing of hymns and readings for the upcoming Sunday. This section allows the members to look ahead to the coming Sunday in their devotions at home.