The Practice Of The Lord's Supper

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Although the liturgies of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and certain Protestant communions may seem forbiddingly complex to members of nonliturgical Protestant traditions, the heart of the Communion service in all the liturgical groups is the great prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over the bread and wine. The prayer's roots extend all the way to the Jewish liturgy Jesus himself used. A combination of scholarly research and interconfessional discussion has brought a large degree...

The Heart Of Communion

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving follows a pattern given to us by Jesus himself, who built upon Jewish models. Although the various churches have different versions of this prayer, a basic, fourfold structure found already in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper is common to all: taking bread, giving thanks, breaking and pouring, and distributing.

The Prayer Of Thanksgiving

Scholars played an important role in rediscovering how central the eucharistic prayer was in the very earliest history of the church. Although the earliest texts of the eucharistic prayers often survive only in fragments embedded in later works, diligent comparison has permitted the piecing together of the model prayer of thanksgiving given by Hippolytus of Rome (c. 215).

A Common Text For The Prayer Of Thanksgiving

The prayer of thanksgiving that follows was prepared for the plenary session of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches in Lima, Peru, in 1982. The liturgy of which this eucharistic prayer is a part was first celebrated on January 15, 1982. The aim of the liturgy was to illustrate the theological achievement of the Faith and Order document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM). (Although the Roman Catholic Church, unlike the Orthodox churches, does not participate generally in the World Council of Churches, Roman Catholic theologians did participate in this project of the Faith and Order Commission. ) This prayer is important because it offers a modern way of giving thanks that is tied to historical precedent. It is not presented here to be slavishly reproduced, but to serve as a guideline for the preparation of the prayer of thanksgiving in the local church. Each congregation should adapt it to its own worship practices.

Guidelines For Preparing Communion Prayers

We find two main patterns for the prayer of thanksgiving at Communion services. One focuses primarily on Jesus' words of institution at the Last Supper, as reported by Paul; the second employs the words of institution, but embeds them in the story of God's saving action. With these main outlines in mind, worship committees in churches that lack prescribed liturgies can construct prayers of consecration that are faithful both to the broad tradition of the church dating back to the apostolic times, while also remaining faithful to their own tradition.

An Inclusive Language Prayer Of Thanksgiving

This eucharistic prayer uses traditional structure and elements to frame abundant biblical imagery, located especially in the verbs. The liturgical and biblical traditions are enlivened by ancient metaphors and poetic euphony and rhythm. In addition, this text seeks to be inclusive of the experience of a wide variety of Christians in its imagery. The prayer is not one of penitence or catechizing, but of genuine praise and intercession. It is hoped that while each line sounds familiar, the effect of the prayer will be to call us back to yet another image of grace.