Karen E. Smith and Simon P. Woodman (eds.), Prayers of the People (Regent's Park College, 2011)
In 2005 the Baptist Union published Gathering for Worship: Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples edited by Chris Ellis and Myra Blyth. This was a fantastic collections of liturgies for communion, baptism, marriages, funerals, etc, plus a section of prayers for general worship. In more recent years, I've silently hoped that there might be a sequel which included a wider range of prayers for worship. In this collection edited by Smith and Woodman, that need is fulfilled. Pulling together nearly a hundred contributors - so a wide range of voices (reflecting the diverse traditions that Baptists draw on) - the book offers prayers of gathering, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, intercession, sending out, prayers for liturgical seasons and prayers for special services. The book will quickly find its place on my shelf - and hopefully many more - next to Gathering for Worship as resource in planning worship.
Paul Fiddes provides a helpful introduction on the theology of public prayer around themes of inspiration and sincerity, divine dialogue, divine dance, intercession and prayers written and spontaneous. Another inclusion that I liked was each chapter begins with some short quotes from Baptists on prayer, which demonstrates we have said quite a lot! Too much public prayer in Baptist worship is poor - sadly more often than not at the Baptist Assembly (on which can I cheekily suggest each worship leader is given a copy of Prayers of the People) - in that it lacks shape and depth. Prayers that are prepared or borrowed can provide worship with a more intentional shape and help form the particular prayer lives of those gathered. Good prayer teaches us how to pray freely - so this book gives lots of examples of thoughtful and theological prayer which will enrich the church.
The book is also in honour of John Weaver on his retirement from Principal of South Wales Baptist College. While the usual festschrift of collected essays is also an interesting read (see recent collections in honour of Nigel Wright and Brian Haymes), Prayers of the People I think will make a long lasting contribution to Baptist life and worship, in both its accessibility and its practical usage, and for that reason it a fitting tribute to John Weaver who has sort to be a practical theologian of the church.
I do have a few quibbles - the chapters of prayers of sending out is pretty sparse compared to the other chapters, which perhaps reflects we struggle to end worship well (something I'm planning a short paper on for the hearts and minds conference) and it would have been nice to see some prayers of illiumination before scripture is read or sermon is preached, which reflects another concern of mine that we don't acknowledge that reading of scripture is a key moment in worship.
At £10 don't miss this bargain. It will be well used.