One of the first principles of Christian worship is that prayers are the most important words of a service. They are spoken to God and therefore express the central reference point for everything that takes place during the ritual. They express the theological meaning of the actions and ceremonies that the worshipers perform.
Since Easter affirms the central claim of the Christian faith—“That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)—it is especially important that these words be chosen carefully. They need to affirm this meaning concisely. They need to do so in a way that transcends the confusion that often exists in church teaching and popular piety. The prayer below is how I expressed the core of the Easter faith in the church were I was one of the worship leaders on Easter 2016.
Life-giving God: On this holy and joy-filled day we gather with Christians around the world to proclaim that Jesus lives
- In the testimonies of his friends and companions long ago;
- In the sacraments of baptism and feast of joy that his followers have celebrated ever after;
- In the secret recesses of our hearts as we open our lives in prayer;
- In the courageous actions of people when they face the struggles of life in the world;
- In the faith, hope, and love that sustain us and continue with us when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death.
On this day, when the world groans in travail waiting for its redemption, we dare to pray: Marnatha, Lord Jesus, come.
- Come again to confound the forces of evil, especially in those places where innocent people suffer grievously.
- Come again to renew faith, rekindle hope, and model the steadfast love that binds the world together.
- Come again to free us from guilt and all that separates us from God’s love.
- Come again to bring comfort as we mourn the death of the people we love.
- Come again to proclaim the coming of the world of peace, joy, and life abundant that has been God’s will since the beginning of creation long ago.
All this we dare to pray, eternal God, through Jesus Christ, who embodied your presence with us, who willingly, because of his great love, gave himself up to death in order to reunite us with you, and whom who raised to take his place with you in everlasting glory. Amen.