Lord, Have Mercy

Our practice of home devotions has evolved over the last several years. Naturally, as the children have grown, our devotions have grown as well. The tricky thing, I suppose, with a family that spans several ages, is to find something that engages the older kids and that the little ones can also participate with. We’ve tried Bible story books (some have worked well) and devotional books (not as well, because they’re usually written for a specific age group).

We take time for this at bedtime, so nighttime prayers have always been included. “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and Luther’s evening prayer. Sometimes we have also sung hymns, at devotion time or after the kids were in bed. But I was seeking something more. Perhaps, I thought, we could follow something like Luther’s orders for morning and evening devotion in the Small Catechism (which I have written about here). Or, perhaps we could use elements of hymnal services like Vespers (Evening Prayer) or Compline (Prayer at the Close of Day).

So I compiled two brief orders of evening devotion, one based on Vespers and one on Compline. It’s quite abbreviated, so that each one fits on a half sheet of paper, front and back. It has actually worked rather well. The kids were already familiar with music for Compline, and the short responses for both of them.

I have long maintained that a strength of liturgical worship is how it allows even little children to participate through the rich repetition, especially with brief responses like, “Lord, have mercy, “Alleluia,” and “Amen.” I should not have been surprised to find that this same strength applies to worship around the family altar.

It seems that the kids’ favorite part of these devotions are the prayers in our “Evening Prayer” order. It is very similar to the Kyrie on p. 59 in Christian Worship, though I took some of the petitions from its counterpart in the Lutheran Service Book. The response is the same every time: “Lord, have mercy.” Isaiah (4) and Miriam (2) sing it the loudest. It’s simple enough for the youngest to participate fully, but these words are so far from being trite or trivial.

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