"The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming. Extempore public prayer has this difficulty: we don’t know whether we can mentally join in it until we’ve heard it – it might be phoney or heretical. We are therefore called upon to carry on a critical and a devotional activity at the same moment: two things hardly compatible. In a fixed form we ought to have ‘gone through the motions’ before in our private prayers: the rigid form really sets our devotions free.
“I also find the more rigid it is, the easier it is to keep one’s thoughts from straying. Also it prevents any service getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment (a war, an election, or what not). The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. I don’t see how the extempore method can help becoming provincial and I think it has a great tendency to direct attention to the minister rather than to God.”
C.S. Lewis ~ Yours, Jack
I love the thought that “the rigid form really sets our devotions free”. That’s why liturgy is so moving. We know it well; we know what’s coming and we can enter it from the very first note or word. Even our simple table prayer – the one we’ve prayed for years and years – can be very devotional because it takes us immediately into a posture of thanksgiving.
For me this means no more struggling with impromptu public prayer. There are too many beautifully written prayers available; prayers that express exactly what I believe and that will allow me to worship unencumbered.