Peace Lutheran Church Natoma, Kansas
I was first introduced to The Litany (LSB p. 288 or TLH #661) in Lent 2002, when on Sunday mornings, in place of an opening hymn, we chanted the Litany during Lent. It was a rather unwelcome introduction at the time as I did not care much for chanting, and my personal preference was to sing a hymn anyway.
After that I largely forgot about the Litany, and I do not ever recall praying it in chapel at either college or at Seminary. And then, in Lent 2011, LCMS President Matt Harrison invited everyone to pray the Litany along with him during the season of Lent.
10 years after first being introduced to the Litany, I return to it now each Lent, and at other times of the year, as Christians the world over have returned to it for over 1000 years, to call upon the Lord in the somewhat unique way that the Litany offers.
It is long, it is detailed, and it does not always leave one feeling so upbeat when they pray the final petition. But that may be what makes it so appropriate for Lent. Lent is about focusing our attention on the way of the cross and on the sufferings that our Lord endured on our behalf. The Litany is a dose of reality, that on our own we are poor miserable sinners, who call upon the Lord in our every time of trouble.
Of the 25 petitions in the Litany, 11 have the response ‘have mercy’. Perhaps that is the appeal of the Litany, it acknowledges repeatedly our living in a fallen world, and it sends up the only cry that it knows how: have mercy.
Have mercy on us as we face the temptations of the evil one.
Have mercy on our nation as we face threats from abroad and threats at home.
Have mercy on the poor, the widowed and the orphaned as they struggle to survive.
Have mercy on the young as they come of age in an increasingly difficult age.
Have mercy on me who is not worthy to approach Your throne of grace.
These are not petitions that we pray lightly. Each brings with it an acknowledgement of the devils work in the world, wreaking havoc on the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy. And so we implore God to hear our cries and help us.
Which He does in the form of His Son.
The Litany is not just a list of things that are wrong with the world due to the effects of sin in it; it is also a reminder of what God has done for His people. God sent His Son into the world to redeem the world, and He now sends the Holy Spirit into the world to comfort us and build us up through His Word and sacraments.
The power of the Litany is that in the midst of so many trials and tribulations that surround us, there is still that ever present reminder that Christ has overcome them all by His death and resurrection. God has heard our cries, God has delivered us from our enemies, God has had mercy upon us.
I would encourage you to pray the Litany during the time of Lent, and at other times of the year when you are searching for words to pray. It does not take long to pray; it does not need to take long to pray. But ponder those petitions, ponder what it means to pray ‘have mercy’; and ponder how God has indeed had mercy upon you.
God Bless! Pastor Schmidt