Extempore prayer vs liturgical prayer -- a response

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reform1509

Puritan Board Freshman
I highly respect the expertise on this forum and I would appreciate your assistance. Who can help me to develop a scriptural defense (on each point) in favor of extempore prayer? This is in response to J.C. Ryles famous statements on the advantages of liturgical prayers. I am trying to respond to each point. Here is what he says... (Thanks in advance for your input!)

Firstly, it makes the congregation dependent upon the minister's health, circumstances or feelings. If he is sick, or depressed in spirit by some matter, then the devotions of the congregation are bound to suffer. A minister is only a man, and if he prays extempore, his feelings must of necessity colour his prayers.

Secondly, the worship becomes dependent upon the minister's memory. He may forget many things which he ought to pray for, and which he intended to pray for. But again, he is a man, and liable to forget.

Thirdly, the congregation becomes entirely dependent upon the minister's doctrinal beliefs. He may be moving away, gradually, from the true faith ; adding to, or taking away from the Gospel. If this is happening, the people are bound to suffer, for his unsoundness will become apparent in his prayers.

Fourthly, extempore prayer makes it almost impossible for the congregation to join in public worship. They cannot know what the minister is going to pray for. They must concentrate very hard to avoid loosing the thread of the prayer. Indeed, sometimes they may not understand him because of his language.

Lastly, it must be added that, after a time, extempore prayer becomes as much a form to most congregations, as any form of prayer ever written. After a few years the congregation knows well the phrases, expressions and order of the petitions of the minister. Sometimes they can make a shrewd guess how long the prayer will last, and when it is nearing its end. When this is the case, it is just as formal to pray extempore as to pray from a book.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Overall, these reasons reflect a "performance-attitude" to prayer, and a perfectionist one at that, which fails to take account of its divine appointment and provisions.

On points 1 and 2, the ordinance is appointed for human weakness. The Spirit is promised and provided for this very reason, Rom. 8:26-27.

On point 3, the congregation must prove all things and hold fast that which is good. A set form is also liable to error, only the error is worsened by the fact it is now established in a set form.

On point 4, the congregation says Amen, which is all that is necessary for a congregation as such. A set form is equally prone to being misunderstood, especially if it has been composed by people from a different background. A minister called by a congregation is more likely to speak so as to be understood by the congregation.

On point 5, though extempore prayer often takes on personal forms of praying, these forms can be changed to fit special circumstances and needs of the congregation. A set form necessarily fails in this area and therefore the forms tend to be multiplied to try to accommodate diverse situations.
 
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reform1509

Puritan Board Freshman
Could anyone comment also on ways in which liturgical ideas creep into evangelical worship today? Any thoughts? What are some dangers, trends, or blind spot?

Your input is appreciated.
 
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