A Journey with Worshiping Communities Around the World: Prayers and songs for World Communion Sunday

On the first Sunday of October, increasing numbers of churches participate in World Communion Sunday, a time when Christians everywhere celebrate what it means to belong to "the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints." Indeed, the church is the one body of Christ, our head. In Holy Communion, we most deeply celebrate our oneness in Christ.

One way to remember the larger body of Christ is to offer prayers and songs that come to us from our brothers and sisters around the world. Here are several examples that were included in a tour by the Calvin College Campus Choir earlier this year. Most of the prayers were adapted from With All God's People: The New Ecumenical Prayer Cycle (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1989).

The two Kyrie settings were sung by the choir. The Russian Kyrie was sung in six parts, three for the women and three for the men, with the basses singing each F an octave lower than written. The Kyrie from Ghana was introduced by a saxophone, then repeated by an frican-American soloist. On the repetitions the choir also hummed on the pitches Cand G. The final time, all joined in, singing the Kyrie in canon.


Narrator: Today and every day, Christians in many places and in many languages are praying and lifting songs of praise to God. Let us pray with them, joining our hearts and voices with theirs. We begin our journey with brothers and sisters in South America and Africa.

From Ecuador

"Te Exaltare, Mi Dios, Mi Rey'V'T Will Exalt My God, My King" (PsH 186)

[Sung by the choir in Spanish, then by all in English.]

From Malawi

May Africa praise you, you the true God
from the south even to the north,
from east to west, from sea to sea.
Amen! Amen!

May the mighty wind bear your name
through cities and hamlets,
by quiet valleys and silent mountains,
over moving waters and sounding falls,
across the sunlit desert,
over the quivering savannah,
through the mysterious forest.
Amen! Amen!

Across the immense African land, overflowing with your praise, imprint all with your splendor, which words cannot express. May your name be known and loved all over the land.
Amen! Amen!

From the Orthodox Liturgy

Narrator: Next, we journey north. Hear these words of praise from the solemn and ancient liturgies of the Christian East—Greece, Syria, Russia.

Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
now and forever.
O Lord God, your power is incomparable!
Your glory is incomprehensible!
Your mercy immeasurable! Your love for human beings is inexpressible!
Unto you are due all glory, honor, and worship
to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever,
and even unto ages of ages. Amen.

—Adapted horn A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers. Crestwood NY: SVS Press, 1991


Narrator: Gloria in excelsis. Kyrie eleison.

Glory to God in the highest. Lord, have mercy. The whole world sings praise to God, but the whole world is also pulled into times of earnest lament. Hear these prayers—poignant cries for help to the God of all mercy.

From Russia

Kyrie eleison

[The following setting of the Kyrie is sung as a refrain after each prayer.]

From Egypt

We pray, Lord for the rising of the water of the Nile this year. May Christ, our Savior, bless it and raise it, cheering the earth and sustaining us, his creatures. And may the rising water remind us of the Living Water freely given to all who repent and believe. Amen.

Kyrie eleison

From the Pacific Islands

Keep the ocean clean, O God.
Keep our island clean.
Keep the waste from killing our fish—
so that we people can survive. Amen.
Kyrie eleison

From England

Merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

—Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Kyrie eleison

From Hong Kong

Heavenly Father, as the miry bottom of the pond helps the lotus flower to grow, so may our often unlovely environment encourage growth in us. And as the lotus blossom in all its radiance rises above the mire, so help us to transcend our earthly personalities worthy to be called your children. Amen.

Kyrie eleison

From Ghana

[Another Kyrie was now introduced by a saxophone and then sung by an African-American soloist. It was repeated by all after the next three prayers.]

From North America

Lord, we know that you'll be coming through this food line today.
So, Lord, help us to treat you well, help us to treat you well. Amen.

Kyrie eleison


Your people tremble, wonder, and are perplexed as we see our nation grappling with creeping materialism from the West, atheism and gnawing corruption in high and low places. Give your church strength, wisdom, and courage to confront our people of Zambia, and announce the good news of the gospel. Amen.

Kyrie eleison

From Cameroon

God of love, God of mercy, God of all power!
Why do you let your people die—
your people whom you have redeemed?
Why do you let the earth suffer—
the earth you have created in your sovereign
Lord, look and see the misery of the famine
that is ravaging your people;
Look and see these children, these women and
who are dying of hunger and who cry to you in
their need.

Give them, we pray, according to your grace and according to their need to the glory of your
name. Amen.

Kyrie eleison

Rev. Dr. John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of music and worship at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches in the religion department at Calvin University.

Reformed Worship 48 © June 1998, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.