Rote prayers are difficult for so many to embrace. The words are words of others, meticulously crafted to express a certain issue of worship, thanksgiving, contrition, supplication, and more. Books of worship for ministers have all the right prayers. I keep a copy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as it seems to have a prayer for every occasion.
But these prayers are not without meaning. Just because someone else crafted them makes them no less meaningful in a cultivated prayer life. It is the focus on the words, expressed by an individual, being led by those words that can drive one deeper into a personal, more prayerful relationship with God when our own words fail to come to the surface.
Extemporary prayers are thought by most in the Protestant tradition to be the most meaningful. But, I believe that a good, rote prayer, said with a personal flavor, is the best prayer. Here's the prayer for the international healing ministry, The Order of St. Luke the Physician:
"Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to put forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your son; graciously continue, in this, your church, the love, and the power to heal, to the honor and glory of your name. Amen."
Having said this prayer for years now, it has changed in how it rolls off my lips. I view it as an outline of the things to be said. But, it being first learned rote, it had to take root in my heart in order to grow and express my deepest desires. These days, my prayer for the Order of St. Luke the Physician goes something like this:
"Father God, awesome creator, you inspired your servant Luke the physician to record in the Gospels and the Acts of the apostles, the love...the deep compassionate love of your son, Jesus Christ ...and His power to heal. Father, I pray that you graciously continue in this, your church, your body of believers, the Christlike love...the compassionate love, the self-less love...and the power to heal, to the honor and glory of your name, in the name of your precious son, Jesus Christ I pray, and with the power of the Holy Spirit intervening for me where my words fall short. Amen."
A rote prayer may kick-start a prayerful experience but by embracing it and internalizing it makes all the difference. The words of a rote prayer can be a springboard for personal, extemporary prayer if given the chance.