Under the weather

O Almighty Lord God, who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again; We humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives, and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

– Prayer “For Fair Weather”, Book of Common Prayer

For those of us in the west – particularly those of us living and working in urban or suburban settings – the emphasis in older prayer books, such as the Book of Common Prayer, on the weather or on protection in darkness (“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord…”) can seem to us merely picturesque.

Our lives are so better insulated from the effects of the weather, in particular, that the idea of praying for either rain or for fair weather seems almost irrelevant. And as for prayers “In Time of Dearth and Famine”, well, dearth and famine are now a matter of location rather than of time: something that happens to other people elsewhere, rather than something that may occasionally happen to us. So it’s not surprising that the equivalent section in the Church of England’s latest liturgy, Common Worship, does not include any prayers on this subject.

It seems to me that, for many of us today, the place once taken by the weather is now occupied by the economy: forces we barely understand and over which we have no control, that one minute can shine benevolently upon us (sometimes for a whole “nice” decade), and the next can bring us uncertainty, misery or even ruin.

I’m not sure that modern liturgies have picked up on this at all. I don’t recall encountering prayers for benevolent economic circumstances, and certainly the Common Worship texts linked above do not include this. The nearest they come are prayers “for those engaged in commerce and industry” and “for social justice and responsibility”. That in itself may show how the liturgical life of the church has become increasingly detached from the concrete, day-to-day realities of our lives, in favour of airy generalities.

But if anyone does know of any prayers for benevolent economic conditions (or for use In Time of Economic Dearth) then do please mention them in the comments.

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6 Responses to Under the weather

  1. Mark says:

    [Thank you for not posting deranged eschatological spam across multiple posts. kthxbye.]

  2. CPA says:

    I thought that was a great point: “The liturgical life of the church has become increasingly detached from the concrete, day-to-day realities of our lives, in favour of airy generalities.”

    Of course the other problem with prayers for the economy is that while almost all people in reality experience it, like you said, as just “weather” they have no control over, the promise of economics, that the economy can be controlled and made part of human purposeful government, also makes it hard to prayer for it with the requisite humble trustfulness. If we pray for economic prosperity, how many preachers and prayer warriors could resist giving God tips on how to do it, according to the various schools of economic teaching out there?

  3. John H says:

    If we pray for economic prosperity, how many preachers and prayer warriors could resist giving God tips on how to do it, according to the various schools of economic teaching out there?

    True, which is a good reason for seeking “official” liturgical material, where hopefully some degree of balance and self-correction would be at work. (Though equally it could be a process of mutual reinforcement!)

    And it’s not just economics where that’s a problem. We get many of our “prayers of the church” each week from US sources (for obvious reasons), and there are times when it can feel like the prayers are making certain political assumptions that are perhaps more glaring in our context than in the context in which they were written. One prayer a few weeks ago sounded like it had been copied and pasted off a McCain campaign website… ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Phil Walker says:

    Pfft. Everyone knows God runs a command economy within an absolute monarchy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have a theory that another part of the reason might be that England, while the Anglican church was “maturing”, did not experience significant market dislocation (to use the phrase of the hour) in the way that, say, the Spanish did while all that lovely New World gold flooded into the Motherland. To falsify this theory, I need a Spanish speaker who has access to the liturgies of the RCC during the colonial era.

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  6. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » The naked civil servant… and a rapid-response prayer

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