Watch over thy child, O Lord, as his days increase; bless and guide him wherever he may be. Strengthen him when he stands; comfort him when discouraged or sorrowful; raise him up if he fall; and in his heart may thy peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of his life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.This is a perfectly acceptable prayer, though the congregation may stumble over some of the necessary substitutions—“children” for “child,” for example. No attempt is made to modernize the language—substituting “your” for “thy,” for example—which would be more consonant with our Rite II Eucharist. (One could address these problems by printing an edited prayer in the bulletin, but we don’t do that.) One might object, however, to the fact that this “birthday” prayer, despite its being labeled as “For a Birthday,” does not even allude obliquely to a birthday! Prayer #50 is more satisfactory in this regard, but it has an even trickier required substitution, as it is written to apply to an individual:
O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on your servant N. as he begins another year. Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his trust in your goodness all the days of his life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.This would be a more appropriate prayer if it were edited for the bulletin.
The anniversary prayer is read only by our rector for reasons not completely obvious. He uses the prayer at the top of page 431 of the prayer book, which is part of the Marriage liturgy:
O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.This prayer shares a deficiency with Prayer #51, namely, it does not allude to the occasion being celebrated. It is remarkable that the prayers for various occasions that are listed beginning on page 814 do not include an anniversary prayer. How could the compilers of our prayer book have overlooked the need for such a prayer?
All this is by way of asking for suggestions for creating a completely satisfactory anniversary prayer. I have begun writing an anniversary prayer, but I am not sure I have all the right elements. The prayer should refer explicitly to the annual celebration and should avoid the analogy between a marriage and Christ’s relationship to the Church. (The Ephesians 5 notion that the wife must obey the husband as the Church must obey Christ is anachronistic in 21st-century America.)
Suggestions, anyone? If you already have such a prayer, please offer it.