The rhetoric of prayer.

Author:Stowe, Douglas
Position::Letter to the Editor
 
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In "Editorial Secrets Revealed" and the note on the "Adoremus Bulletin" (While We're At It, Public Square, April), Richard John Neuhaus focused on the use of proper grammar and elegant language. I am sympathetic with Father Neuhaus about the lack of clarity and elegance in the language we use at every level of our national conversations. In conversations with junior-high-school children I notice their complete ignorance of the objective case of the relative pronoun. In sermons (I myself preach weekly and am not above reproach) I am appalled at the confusion of language and disorder of outline. I shudder to listen to the leader of the free world, who unfortunately has no ear for the rhythms of good rhetoric.

But having said all of that, I would like to speak at least a few words in defense of colloquialism. I use an altar book containing many prayers traceable to ancient sacramentaries of the Western Church. These are by any literary measure excellent. As a matter of fact, one can usually pick out the newer ones only because they are poorer in literary style. But they are lousy prayers for my congregation. The people that I lead in prayer do not pray in literary styles. The brunt of their personal prayer is much closer to Luther's "O God, have mercy!" As I lead them in prayer and teach them to pray, my concern...

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