How to prepare a Taize prayer – practical guide

 

 

This is the post for those who will create the temporary communities or just want some creative ideas or guidance of how to structure a Taize prayer – it needs to have a structure, a rhythm, it should not be an utterly spontaneous set of songs and texts put together. However, a bit of creativity makes the prayer more dynamic. All we write above is our subjective advice and is not a “Taize doctrine” you have to stick to. Just pick the suggestions that you like. Apart from our suggestions you can find a lot of helpful hints at the beginning of the Taize prayer books.

Beginning

  • Should the prayer start punctually? Yes and no. You should be ready at the time scheduled, so you have to know how much time you need for arranging chairs, altar, song booklets or sheets and candles. Sometimes people tend to come 2-3 minutes after the due time. So you if you notice that, you can consider waiting.
  • It’s up to you if you decide to greet people before the prayer, for instance: “Good morning. It is great to see you here” makes the atmosphere more homely.
  • When we arrange an evening prayer with some more people who are not necessary well acquainted with the Taize songs, we often exercise a few songs – never more than 3 and never longer than 5 minutes. If you intend to choose songs in “strange” languages, such as Polish, Portuguese or Bulgarian (don’t hesitate to do so if a translation is provided under the notes), then yet before pre-singing, it is good to read the text for people loudly and clearly and let them repeat.

 

Order of things

  • At the very beginning of our community time took a calendar (It is actually a must that everyone in the provisional community has a calendar in the table form with all assignments for the month that is filled in regularly. It can be printed or you can also have one shared Google calendar). At the start of the month we divided the prayers – each prayer is led by just one of us and this person makes all decisions about structure, readings etc. As a prayer leader you don’t have to do everything on your own – you can delegate the tasks. But when one person is in charge – today evening me, tomorrow morning you and tomorrow evening he – it spares us many possible conflicts. We just arranged first two or three prayers together in order to get accustomed to the environment and then it has been going on in turns.
  • Before the prayer, especially public one, you have to know more or less how much time you intend to devote to the prayer. It is also good when people know whether they should expect 20 minutes or an hour.
  • The traditional order of our prayers is (in full version): song – song – psalm – song – Bible reading – song – silence – song – litany – song – Our Father – song.
  • Many times we largely modified this outline scenario. The midday prayers in which we had no more than 2 people apart from us, are always shorter. The shortest version was song – reading – song – silence – song.
  • It is also good to tell people before the last song that this is the last chant at least in the official part of the prayer, so they have a sense of structure and are not confused when actually the prayer is over. “The last song will be… but you are welcome to stay, we will keep singing”.

Songs

  • It is important which language you choose to sing the chants in. it should all be balanced. Latin and English are universal. It’s advisable always to incorporate at least one song in the mother tongue of people who are present. Every now and then you are welcome to pick “strange languages”.
  • Before the prayer, try to make sure that your community companions know the song that you chose for the prayer. We developed a nice custom that if someone wants to introduce sth new or unknown, we exercise it privately a day or hours before. it excludes the risk that there will be just one person singing.
  • Check, if possible before the community time, if your host parish has Taize song books, or if not, a printer. We work in three parishes and only one has Taize books so yet before the community time we printed the song sheets – with the texts only. On one A4 sheet printed on both sides you can easily put approx.. 60 songs. The songs on your sheet MUST have numbers.
  • There are two ways of telling people what song is the next one. Don’t expect your parish to come up with a display such as the one in Taize. There are nations who “want to be exactly told what to do in a given moment. For such people (we were told that the Swiss are like that) it is advisable to SAY the number of the chant before each one. It is also better if it’s quite dark inside. You can also try a big sheet of flipchart paper with the numbers written on but it does not always work, especially when it is dark inside and when you don’t worte it in sufficient big letters, because people couldn’t read it for afar.
  • The prayer leader should remember to sing “Amen” to signal the end of the song.
  • If you notice in the course of the prayer that people have difficulties singing, make sure that there is one leading voice (who sings the soprano part) to which people can stick to. If people singing with power it is not necessary and then you have more freedom to introduce the polyphony.
  • In the “afterwards part” you should expressly encourage people that they can say loudly the number of songs they would like to sing.
  • Roger was always attentive to the sensitivities of other denominations. If you are in a protestant environment, think about asking before you come up with a song such as ‘Bogurodice dievo”.

Reading

  • You can choose between readings from the Taize books, readings that Taize community offers for a given day, or readings that the local church or other Christian church offers for each day  (example here) or just the passage that you like. Make sure that you know what the Bible book is called from which the passage is derived in the very language that you read it in. They sometimes vary considerably – for instance The Book of Revelations in German is called Offenbarung and in Polish Apokalipsa
  • You can always ask an ordinary participant to take over a reading. In my opinion the form “Would you please read…?” works much better than just addressing all people present “Who would like to…?”

Psalm

  • Again you can choose between the psalms from Taize prayer books, local church readings and you can just pick any of 150 biblical psalms.
  • Especially if you do the last thing, exercise it before if you intend to sing it.
  • If you don’t have any instrument such as piano or guitar, mummying by two other companions might be helpful.
  • It’s good when people understand at least a part of the psalm, so you can for instance sing one part in English and the other in a local language.

Silence

  • It’s good to announce the silence.
  • If you are badly prepared for the prayer, there is a temptation to browse through the sheets of paper you have in front of you to search for something. Even if the paper does not rustle a lot, you will still spoil the silence. Don’t do it. For somebody who leads the prayer, the silence is sometimes the only moment when they can get truly engrossed in personal prayer. It’s time just for you and God!

Litany

  • The Taize books have a limited scope of litanies. After the first week we realized we are running out of litanies. After two weeks we realised that we sort of keep repeating the same ones.
  • So in the third week we either wrote our own exclamations, or allowed people to spontaneously express it with us. It always worked and people could feel that they could make their own personal contribution. If you go for requests, you can tell people that they can just say single names of those they want to pray for (it will encourage them) or just requests (supplication).
  • On the Taize webpage we found out that the litany does not have to be a set of It may also be a praise (what God Is like) or thanksgiving (what good things happened to me).
  • For us it worked that after each three spontaneous requests / acts of thank-you, we sang Kyrie, Laudamos te or Christe Jesu Lumen

 Prayer

  • There are various books with the prayers of Fr. Roger and Alois and unlimited number of books and webpages with other prayers. We picked pope Francis’s words a few times.
  • Sometimes we just prayed out of our heart even if we had a prayer prepared in fron of our eyes. People listen more attentively when you speak than when you read. If you have some chatty youngsters in your prayer, start praying with your own words and chances are that they will get silenced. But don’t make it too long – no more than two sentences. It’s not a sermon!

Our Father

  • It is advisable to tell this prayer in the local language and to have a short introduction prepared, such as “let’s pray as Jesus taught us”.

Prayer topics

  • But how to put it all together?
  • You can choose the reading first and then the songs that fit to the topic.
  • You can also pick the topic first and then search for a suitable readings and songs.
  • Possible topics: light and darkness, thankful prayer, freedom, peace, love of God
  • Recently Sebastian came up with a brilliant idea to make a blessing prayer. The traditional parts of the prayer were incorporated, but the reading was split. After each blessing (Jesus Mount Sermon – Mathew, 5), there was a chant that corresponded to the blessing. For more details, contact us.
  • Think about the order of the chants – for instance I think that Veni Sancte Spiritus is better for the beginning than for the end or that songs with solo parts are not quite suitable as an introductory song.

If you are preparing for the temporary community, share it with your friends and discuss which of those ideas appeal to you.

Maciek

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