Worship | The General Prayer
West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod

Zeidler's Altar Prayers
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Prayers of Intercession / Prayer of the Church

  • Prayers of Intercessions (ELW)
  • The Prayers, rubric #22 (LBW)
  • Prayer of the Church
  • Prayers of the People
  • The General Prayer
  • The Altar Prayer

It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere. — AC VII, trans. of German text, Kolb-Wengert ed.

It is not necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by human beings be alike everywhere. — AC VII, trans. of Latin text, Kolb-Wengert ed.

We've received repeated complaints about the prayers of intercession provided in Sundays and Seasons and in Celebrate.

All should be reminded that there is no canon law requiring that the prayers in Sundays & Seasons or in Celebrate be used by any congregation. If a pastor and congregation likes them, fine; if not, fine. The choice of prayers is well within the realm of adiaphora, though the selection of prayers is not a pure adiaphoran. Care should be taken to select (or compose) prayers that are not only fitting to corporate worship in God's house but also doctrinely sound.

The rubrics do not assume that a published source for the prayers of intercession be used; in fact, quite the opposite:

  • The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion, using the following pattern or another appropriate form (ELW).
  • Since their formulation is not specified, [the prayers] must be prepared for each service. Persons involved in the local situation are best able to balance properly the universal scope proper to the Christian concern with the specific concerns of a given congregation. Preparation of the prayers is no less important than preparation of the sermon ("Notes on the Liturgy," LBW—MDE).

It should also be remembered that alternate prayer forms and resources are included in both the ELW and the LBW. For example, working within the schema of the LBW, if one does not want to construct from scratch the petitions, one is free to use, within the the rubrics,

  • the prayer of the church found on pp.52-53,
  • the format presented in the mass (p.65 etc.), selecting from the petitions, intercessions, and thanksgivings found on pp.42-51,
  • the general prayer found in the ante-communion liturgy (p.75 etc.),
  • the general prayer found in the Service of the Word (pp.129-130),
  • the great litany found on pp.168-173,
  • the vespers litany found on pp.148-151, or
  • one of the responsive prayers (suffrages) found on pp.161-167, albeit with some modification.

Similar, though not all, options are found in the ELW.

General prayer may be a new term for some. This was the term employed in the Common Service Book (1917). Its name changed over time to the current ELW usage, Prayers of Intercession. Likewise, from the CSB, in which it was a single lengthy prayer said by the pastor with a single congregational amen at the end, it became in the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) an intercessory prayer (i.e., the elements were broken up into several petitions with congregational responses after each, the form we employ most commonly today). The last vestige of the general prayer in its old form is found in the ante-communion order in the LBW (p.75 etc.).

Zeidler's Altar Prayers

King James English
Modern English
Epiphany through Transfiguration
Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Holy Week
MS-Word MS-Word
MS-Word MS-Word
Pentecost through to Advent
MS-Word MS-Word

Clemens H. Zeidler, president of Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary (1957-1976), published a collection of general prayers under the title, Altar Prayers for the Church Year (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1962). Unlike the general prayer found in the CSB intended for use throughout the year, Zeidler's collection included prayers for each Sunday of the church year and also the feasts and lesser festivals. This book can still be obtained from various vendors of old and used books. It can also be borrowed from the Internet Archive. For your convenience, we will post transcriptions (in MS-Word) on this page as the seasons progress. Feel free to use this resource. Some notes:

  • the prayers may be converted into intercessory format by simply including the appropriate response after each paragraph (and an introduction before);
  • the prayers, originally published in King James English, as was the norm prior to the LBW, are available in that form as well as modern English as adapted by Synod Office staff—select from the appropriate column at right;
  • the prayers may be used for inspiration when composing your own prayers; and
  • caveat, the prayers are keyed to the old one-year lectionary, meaning they may not always line up perfectly with the pericopes of any given day.

There are also published books of intercessory prayers that can be purchased.

One might also find older books of prayer that may be harvested.

West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +  Porter@WV-WMD.org