S&S includes sample Prayers of the People. For those not familiar with liturgical worship, most Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and some others offer space in the middle of worship, after the sermon and before communion, for a series of petitions praying for the needs of the world.
On average, in most liturgical churches, these prayers include petitions for:
The Universal Church, its members, and its mission
The Nation and all in authority
The welfare of the world
The concerns of the local community
Those who suffer and those in any trouble
The departed (with commemoration of a saint when appropriate)
I've become mindful of the prayers in S&S recently because a gripe site for the ELCA regularly criticizes us for praying for creation, but not praying for the lost.
See, sometimes the prayers of the church are general. Other times, they get very specific. This past Sunday, one petition included mention of sea turtles and manatees. Apparently praying for manatee and sea turtles was shocking enough to some hearers that they made a meme (see the photo).
Since manatees are so absolutely cool, it's hard for me to understand what is offensive about praying for them. But apparently perhaps the specificity of the prayer, kind of like including in the prayers of the people a petition for our middle finger, threw people off.
But this started me wondering: what should we pray for? What if anything is off-limits? What, if anything, should be prayed for every Sunday? What are the rules?
The Bible itself has a rather capacious sense of prayer. Some examples:
1. Stars pray with us. (Psalm 148:3)
2. We can pray for the destruction of our enemies. (Psalm 54:5)
3. Groans and sighs are prayers. (Romans 8:26)
4. Acrostic poems are prayers. (Psalm 119)
5. Everything is prayer. (Phil. 4:6)
6. One can pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
7. If you pray for something with true faith it will happen. (Matthew 17:20)
8. You can pray by pouring nard over your Lord's feet and mopping them with your hair. (John 12)
9. You can pray anywhere, but there are also special places to pray. (Acts 16:16)
10. Sometimes God will refuse to listen to prayers. (Isaiah 1:15)
11. Prayer is incense. Incense is prayer. (Psalm 141)
12. Suffering is prayer (1 Peter 4:19)
So if that doesn't leave quite a lot of room for various types of prayer, I don't know what does.
But then I thought, perhaps people are offended that the prayers of the people might actually be listing specific animals. So I looked, and lo and behold, the Bible mentions just an absolute ton of animals. So, by way of conclusion I invite my readers to spend time praying for this amazing list of creatures, God's wonderful creation. God's good creation.
And of course you can pray for the lost. Perhaps start by praying for everybody who lost big chunks of the Bible and forgot the breadth of God's providential care.