Good Friday Bidding Prayer

The Good Friday service at my church was good and well done. But I have to say that the Bidding Prayer is sticking in my craw. The Bidding Prayer is a traditional part of the Good Friday liturgy. It consists of a serious of calls to prayer, a short silences, and prayers by the leader on each announced topic.

But what is bothering me is not the concept or the whole thing, but the one petition praying for the Jews.

The text used last night was from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, in which the petition reads:

Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the Word of God.

Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and your teaching to Moses. Hear our prayers that the people you called and elected as your own may receive the fulfillment of the covenant’s promises. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is, I think, an improvement on the LBW text (which used the International Commission on English in the Liturgy text from the early 1970s). And that, in turn, is a vast improvement on the traditional bidding prayer text in the Western tradition.

Prior to 1955 the Roman rite used a prayer like this (translation from the Latin from Wikipedia):

Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.

Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

But it seems to me that in remeding this bad text, we’ve simply chosen to move from unambiguous (and highly problematic) words to ambiguous language. It no longer has the charged slams, but it can be read either as a prayer asking God to remain faithful to his covenant with Israel or a prayer hoping for the conversion of Jews to Christianity. And given the history, leaving it ambiguous, it seems to me, really just continues that tradition but with kinder, gentler, and softer language.

I’d just as soon excise the entire petition if we can’t produce a prayer here that unambiguously leaves that perfidious tradition behind.


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