Look Around as You Pray - Third Sunday of Easter - Psalm 104
A service for the third Sunday of the Easter season intended to be a service of prayer for the new growing season and for the welfare of the nation.
Theme of the Service
This worship service is intended to be a service of prayer for the new growing season and for the welfare of the nation.
In the spring of the year (in March), Christian Reformed churches are normally called to a time of prayer so that God will bless the efforts of preparing the earth and planting crops for a good harvest. Though this practice began when more of our churches were rural and agriculture a way of life for many, it is certainly no less needed and appropriate today. Some churches also celebrate "Rogation Sunday" in the spring.
In addition the President of the United States normally calls the nation to a time of prayer on the first Thursday of May. The churches of the land are called to intercede for the life of the nation, our spiritual health, and the wisdom and welfare of those who lead us. This call to prayer is more urgent than ever this year while our nation wages war in Iraq. Some may prefer to hold such a service midweek; others do so on the Lord's Day.
In light of both considerations, this service of prayer is presented for your use.
WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Prelude: "Partita on 'All Creatures of Our God and King' ", Callahan [organ]
or: "Let All Things Now Living", Leavitt [piano]
or: "All Creatures of Our God and King", Hopson [handbells]
The Call to Prayer
From Psalm 104:27,28 and 1 Timothy 2:1,2
*Song of Praise: "All Creatures of Our God and King" PH455, PsH431, RL4, RN47, SFL 86, TH115, TWC356
*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
*Song of Adoration: "Let All Things Now Living" PH554, PsH453, RN48, TH125, TWC53
Anthem: "He Never Failed Me Yet", Ray
Our world has fallen into sin;
but rebellion and sin can never dethrone God.
He does not abandon the work of his hand;
the heavens still declare his glory.
He preserves his world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding his creatures, renewing the earth,
directing all things to their purpose.
God directs and bends to his will
all that happens in this world.
As history unfolds in ways we only know in part,
all things –
from crops to grades, from jobs to laws –
are under his control.
God is present in our world
by his Word and Spirit.
The faithfulness of our great Provider
gives sense to our days and hope to our years.
The future is secure, for our world belongs to God.
From Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, Articles 4, 13, ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI, 1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.
Offertory: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", Cherwien [organ]
or: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", Wilson [piano]
or: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", Dobrinski [handbells]
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORLD
Anthem: "Send Us Your Spirit", Haas
Scripture Reading of Psalm 104
(At multiple times during the group reading of Psalm 104, the congregation will sing the refrain "Send Us Your Spirit" [SFL 96, SNC 163]. Follow the lead of the organ.)
(See Liturgy Notes for the script and explanation.)
Sermon: LOOK AROUND AS YOU PRAY
WE BRING OUR PRAYERS TO GOD
Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" RN 173, SNC 203:1, WOV 772:1
Prayers for a New Growing Season
(See Liturgy Notes)
Prayers for Homes and Families
Prayers for the Leaders of Nations
Prayers for Those Involved in and Victimized by War
Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" RN 173 (2x), SNC 203:1,2, WOV 772:1,2
*Song of Thanks: "For the Fruit(s) of All/His Creation" (tune East Acklam: PH 553, PsH 455, RL21) (tune Ar hyd y nos: SFL 235, TWC 379, WOV 760)
Postlude: "For the Fruit of All Creation", Stoldt [organ]
* - you are invited to stand.
This sermon should aim to set the stage for the time of congregational praying that will follow it. Sometimes when we pray we try to shut out the world around us. The point of this sermon, based on Psalm 104, should be the opposite. We need to take very close notice of where we are when we pray, for our location will make a big difference in how we pray.
Setting Psalm 104 before the worshipers in its entirety is helpful and can be very moving. Our praying takes place in a world that has come from the creative hand of God and loudly proclaims his handiwork. What's more, creation is entering a new growing season in the northern hemisphere, and while we may find it easy to forget that this is God's work, the psalm teaches that all of creation crawls out of dormancy in the spring only when God sends forth his Spirit (see v.30). Therefore, fervent springtime prayers for good crops require that we are very conscious of our surroundings in God's creation.
Then this message should broaden out and paint pictures of what is happening in society. The daily newspaper needs to be set alongside Psalm 104. The preacher may even want to read recent headlines just as others read Psalm 104 shortly before. Whereas one speaks of God's creation, the other speaks of the instability, violence, and uncertainty of our world. And therefore our prayers go up for God's mercy, patience and grace. Our praying for these carries much more fervor when we are conscious of the uncertainty of the world around us.
Both of these emphases should be drawn together in pointing to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord on the throne who rules our world, gives us the right and privilege to pray in his name, and hears our prayers.
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult
- The organ prelude music composed by Charles Callahan is published under the title "Partita on 'Lasst uns Erfreuen' " by Morningstar MSM-10-700  (E-M). The alternative piano prelude written by John Leavitt is published by CPH 97-6891  (M) in "How Sweet the Sound". The handbell arrangement for 3-4 octaves by Hal Hopson is published by Agape 1546  (E-M).
- "He Never Failed Me Yet" is a SATB choral anthem by Robert Ray written out of the black gospel tradition and includes a solo part that can be sung by either a soprano or tenor. It is published by Jenson 44708014  (M).
- The offertory music, all based on "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", is published as follows:
Organ – Cherwien, David "Interpretations set 8", AMSI SP-105  (E-M)
Piano – Wilson, John F. "A Sacrifice of Praise", Hope 347  (E-M)
Handbells – Dobrinski, Cynthia Agape 1280  3-5 octaves (E-M)
- The SATB anthem "Send Us Your Spirit" by David Haas is published by GIA G-3340  (E) and includes a reproducible refrain box for the congregation. This refrain is used further in this service and can also be found in Songs for Life and Sing! A New Creation.
- The postlude music is taken from "Five Hymn Settings" by Frank Stoldt, published by Morningstar MSM-10-931  (E-M).
1. Two Scripture references are given with the Call to Prayer so that the opening of worship will set the tone for the spirit of a prayer service. Psalm 104 reminds us that we are dependent on God for our food and 1 Timothy 2 reminds us that our nation and its welfare are also dependent on God.
2. The affirmation of faith from "Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony" is key to the spirit of this worship service. We affirm that God is in control of both nature and the nation. Before we pray together this affirmation forms our basis for prayer. It was written by a Synod-appointed committee of the Christian Reformed Church and included in the Psalter Hymnal on pp. 1020 and 1023. For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819 or email@example.com.
3. For churches accustomed to only one or two scripture readings, the reading of Psalm 104 (NIV) in its entirety is rather lengthy, yet it should not be broken up, especially for this service. Two techniques are used here to make this psalm meaningful. At a number of key intervals the congregation sings the response from Psalm 104:30, set to music in the refrain "Send Us Your Spirit" (SFL 96 and SNC 163). The psalm can also be read by multiple readers. The sections are numbered in the script that follows. As many or as few readers as desired can be included. We've done it with six different readers. You should note that when sections are labeled "ALL" it refers to all the readers, not the entire congregation, because this lengthy script was not printed for all to follow. When multiple readers are used they should rehearse together so it can be done smoothly and with expression.
4. The prayers of this service are interspersed with the singing of "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" (RN 173, SNC 203, WOV 772). The prayer is divided into four categories or subjects. There are multiple ways to lead a prayer like this:
- A leader can introduce each section and leave time for silent prayer by worshipers with either the leader moving to the next section or the accompanist leading the worshipers in singing the response before moving to the next one.
- The worshipers can pray in groups of 6-8 in their chairs or pews as a concert of prayer.
- The prayer may be opened for all worshipers to participate verbally.
- Representative intercessors of the congregation can be appointed ahead of time for each section.
· It is also possible to utilize a combination of some of these methods.
In any event it should be a prayer time that is genuinely "of the people".
GROUP SCRIPTURE READING OF PSALM 104 (NIV)
Sung Response: "Send Us Your Spirit" (SFL 96, SNC 163)
All: Praise the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great –
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
1. He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
2. He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
3. But at your rebuke –
the waters fled.
At the sound of your thunder –
they took to flight.
They flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
4. You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
5. He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
Sung Response: "Send Us Your Spirit"
6. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle –
and plants for man to cultivate –
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man –
oil to make his face shine –
and bread that sustains his heart.
7. The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
8. There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.
9. The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night –
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
10. The sun rises,
and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
11. Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.
All: How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Sung Response: "Send Us Your Spirit"
12. There is the sea, vast and spacious –
teeming with creatures beyond number –
living things both large and small.
13. There the ships go to and fro –
and the leviathan –
which you formed to frolic there.
14. These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up –
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
15. When you hide your face
they are terrified –
when you take away their breath (PAUSE)
they die –
and return to the dust.
16. When you send your Spirit –
they are created –
and you renew the face of the earth.
All: May the glory of the Lord
may the Lord rejoice in his works –
he who looks at the earth,
and it trembles,
who touches the mountains,
and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord.
Sung Response: "Send Us Your Spirit"