A Prayer Service Blending Taize and Iona

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At First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, we are expanding our understanding of what it means to worship. One way we’re doing this is by adding worship services that are contemplative in nature. As a prelude to a sermon series/church-wide Bible study titled “Awaken,” we offered a prayer service with communion that was a blend of both the Taizé and Iona communities’ style of worship. Music included a choir, organ, piano, acoustic guitar, and cello. As a means of helping the congregation connect with this service, we provided a written explanation (see excerpt).

Praise and Thanksgiving

In the beginning, when it was very dark, God said: “Let there be light.”
And there was light.
[The sign of light—a lighted candle—is placed on a central table.]

In the beginning, when it was very quiet, the Word was with God.
And the Word was God.
[The sign of the Word—an open Bible—is placed on the table.]

When the time was right, God sent his Son.
He came among us and was one of us.
[The sign of the Son—a cross—is placed on the table.]
—from Iona Abbey Worship Book (Wild Goose Publications, 2001), 171.

Song of Prayer: “The Lord Is My Light” (J. Berthier, Songs and Prayers from Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc.)

O God, for your love for us, warm and brooding, which has brought us to birth and has opened our eyes:
We give you thanks.
For your love for us, wild and freeing, which has awakened us to the energy of creation: to the sap that flows, the blood that pulses, and the heart that sings:
We give you thanks.
For your love for us, compassionate and patient, which has carried us through our pain, wept beside us in our sin, and waited with us in our confusion:
We give you thanks.
For your love for us, strong and challenging, which has called us to risk for you, asked for the best in us, and shown us how to serve;
We give you thanks.
O God, we come to celebrate that your Holy Spirit is present deep within us, and at the heart of all life. Forgive us when we forget your gift of love. Awaken us to the love that Christ offers, and draw us into your presence.
—from Iona Abbey Worship Book, 141ff.

Song of Prayer: “In the Lord” (J. Berthier, Songs and Prayers from Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc.)

Hearing the Word

The Word of God: Romans 13:11-12
Thanks be to God.

Song of Prayer: “Bless the Lord” (J. Berthier, Songs and Prayers from Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc.)

The Meditation: Expectation

Guided Prayer for Awakening

O God, we come asking for you to wake us up from our slumber. Help us to understand how to worship you more fully;
Awaken your people, O Lord.
[time of silent prayer]

Help us to understand how you want us to serve you;
Awaken your people, O Lord.
[time of silent prayer]

Help us to understand how to love each other so that the world will know that we are your disciples;
Awaken your people, O Lord. Awaken me.
[time of silent prayer]

The Table

Song for the Table: “Jesus, Remember Me” (J. Berthier) PH 599, SNC 143, SFL 168, WR 285

Invitation to the Table

Words of Institution

Serving of the Bread

Serving of the Cup

The Blessing

[Worshipers exit the sanctuary in reflective silence.]


A Prayer Service Explained

A prayer service is different from a worship service in several ways. The regular divisions of worship, including the gathering, professing of beliefs, committing ourselves to Christ, and baptism, are not included. The service is wholly dedicated to prayer and the hearing of God’s Word. While some regular elements of worship are certainly present, they are presented in a model of prayer.

Prayer can happen in many ways: through the silent conversation of an individual with God; through guided prayers where a leader facilitates the subject and the flow of the prayers and then allows space for individual prayer; through responsive reading formats; and through song. Prayer songs typically have short texts and easy melodies that are sung in many repetitions to allow the heart and mind to meditate on the words through the medium of music.

This prayer service follows a structure from the Iona and Taizé communities. The Iona community, located on an island off the coast of Scotland, and the Taizé community in France are internationally known for their worship and for prayer services that draw from the ancient traditions of the Christian faith. The Taizé community is also known for the body of music—songs for prayer—written for their services. We hope that this service will broaden your experience of prayer and lead you to a deeper communion with Christ.

For more information on the Iona Community visit www.iona.org.uk.

For more information on the Taizé Community visit www.taize.fr/en.

Rebecca Bedell (rbedell@fpco.org) is Minister for Worship and Culture at First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, Florida.

Reformed Worship 87 © March 2008 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.