“The pleasures and acquisitions we have on earth are fleeting (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14: 2:18-23); wisdom and understanding are without price (Psalm 49:1-11). With this in mind, we put away our old natures and put on the new (Colossians 1:1-11), knowing that our time here is also fleeting and our worldly treasures empty of true meaning (Luke 12:13-21).”
– Thomas Oden in Ancient Christian Devotional
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The Great Litany prayer form dates back to (at least) the fourth century and is one of the great expressions of petition that is common in both Eastern and Western Christian traditions. Every service in the Eastern church begins with a form of these petitions in which the congregation responds: “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord have mercy). Thomas Cranmer and Martin Luther both highly regarded this historic prayer and counted it as an accurate reflection of the Christian’s total dependance on God for life and grace. Luther considered it to be almost as important to Christian worship as the Lord’s Prayer. These are ‘sturdy’ words that have held the weight of Christian lament in every generation. This cry to God for mercy is as appropriate today as it will be in the future. The version below is rooted in the tradition of Thomas Cranmer and is taken from the 1978 edition of The Book of Common Prayer. Go here and here for more background on the history and function of The Great Litany.