The rhetoric of prayer.

Author:Stowe, Douglas
Position::Letter to the Editor

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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