I am about to attempt my intercessions for the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve, and have been pondering lay intercessions as a whole. Not that I am for one minute saying that clergy are the only ones capable of thoughtful, inspiring intercessions (I have heard some real shockers but probably because as my particular Curate points out "clergy intercessions are normally last minute or from a book!") nor that lay people cannot write deeply spiritual and God-inspired prayers.
My Dad got so tense about the general quality of intercessory prayer in one parish that he conducted a study day for all on the rota, I was one of the participants. Some folk remembered the tips he had given them, others didn't as is life. The reason I bring this up now is because it was on a Saturday morning, Dad's usual morning off, and the only time he ever got to do one of his most favourite things - lie in bed! He very nearly ended up missing it as he was still in bed when we got a 'phone call half an hour after it was due to start to ask if they had the correct morning! Oops.
The main thing I remember from that morning, 16 years ago, was when Dad reminded us all that we were leading the congregation in prayer BUT (and it is a big but) always to remember we are praying to God!
Sounds simple doesn't it? Sometimes when I am listening to intercessions and failing to connect with them it is because the person leading does not seem to be pointing us in the direction of God for a variety of reasons.
Some of the intercession habits that cause me to be less than prayerful in no particular order are:
Prayers which sound more like a sermon to the listener.
Prayers which are no more than a list of things for God to do something about or a news report which keeps the congregation informed should they have missed all other types of media!
It may be because of the tradition to which I belong but I feel unreasonably irked about people who use the name of Jesus over and over again in prayer. "Jesus we blah blah blah, Jesus you blah blah blah etc.
Horror of horrors, prayers which use themes and stick to them the whole way through. I am still traumatised by a Sea Sunday intercession about how "When the storms of darkness threaten to capsize the boat of our lives, may we be held by Your anchor." This storm/boat/anchor link was used all the way through.
and to finish prayers which are unreasonably long/short for the setting!
Lord in Your mercy may my prayers live up to this blog post!
A late thought: Don't underestimate the value of reflective silences! I love silence, it gives me time to form prayers in my own thoughts and to reflect on what has just been said. I think as Anglicans we can be afraid of silence. We must harness it!