About 8 people gather in the side Chapel of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Smethport, PA., every Thursday morning for an hour. After a traditional opening of prayers, Bible readings and brief discussion of one or more of the readings, we recite a Litany for Healing.
A Litany is a ritualized type of prayer form made up of prayer requests (called petitions) and a repetative response, such as “Lord, hear our prayer”. For many people, formal and traditional components of Worship (such as this Litany) are meaningful. They keep your attention focused; the form implies a certain unity among those making the prayer requests (remember, Jesus said “where two or three AGREE on anything it shall be done for them”); but, the formal method does not exclude that these requests are “heart felt” by the participants. Admittedly, they are not for everyone.
Some Christians want to make a value judgement that “free-form” (i.e. less formal and structured) Worship is better than (i.e. more authentic or even more preferred by Jesus). Personally, I believe that only God knows what is in a person’s heart as they are praying with the help of a structured tool such as a Litany. My experience suggests that most of the people who use a structured form of prayer, or who use a structure for Worship in general (called a “Liturgy”), are sincere and fully involved in doing so.
Personally, I am glad that the Christian tradition in general (and my own Episcopal tradition specifically) offers us a variety of ways of praying and of Worshipping. People are different: our personalities, likes and dislikes, and ways of approaching the sacred are different. To me, it makes sense to offer a variety of tools that fit people’s differences.