The Church of England (or, we suppose, some person or persons within the Church of England), regularly produces prayers for special occasions. This is a great idea, but sometimes when the prayers appear, they somehow don't quite hit the spot. Yesterday a prayer for the upcoming royal wedding raised a few eyebrows:
God of all grace,
friend and companion,
look in favour on William and Catherine
and all who are made one in marriage.
In your love deepen their love
and strengthen their wills
to keep the promises they will make,
that they may continue
in life-long faithfulness to each other;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We could dismiss the critics as petty fault-finders, determined to criticise the church at every possible opportunity, or alternatively, we could be honest and admit they have a point. The problem with this prayer is the heavy emphasis on the keeping of the vows. William and Kate haven't even said "I will" yet, but we're already praying that they have the strength not to be led astray. In the context of a royal wedding, which inevitably recalls the pomp of the 80s weddings of William's father and his uncle, both of which ended unhappily, this stress on the need for faithfulness looks a bit pointed, as though to say we think that these royals need a bit of extra help in that department. It looks dangerously close to Vic the Vicar's offering, which goes like this:
Please may we break the mould,
Shown to us by the old,
Long may we last.
May we live faithfully,
Not like the other three,
And save the family tree,
God help our Gran!
It might be argued that it's appropriate to pray for a newlywed couple that their vows will stand the test of time, and of course it is. But it's not the only thing we pray for at a wedding. In fact this prayer is not a new one at all, but one of the additional prayers from Common Worship with the names "William" and "Kate" parachuted in. The C of E liturgists have actually produced a whole sheet of prayers, of which this is only one. Why select this one to be "the" prayer which is flagged up on the Church website, this one which, in Common Worship, is clearly labelled "for faithfulness"? It's difficult not to suspect that someone is trying to make a point, although it's just as likely that this is simply a bad decision by the website editor or whoever produced the prayers. Why not instead focus on a prayer for peace, for the home, or for the sharing of love? Why not this one:
God our Father,
from the beginning
you have blessed creation with abundant life.
Pour out your blessings upon William and Kate,
that they may be joined in mutual love and companionship,
in holiness and commitment to each other.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
It's a much better prayer altogether. It is more God-focussed, more elegant, and covers all the bases (including mutual commitment) without placing undue emphasis on one aspect of marriage. Or, if that's too churchy for you, how about this one, also produced specially by the C of E:
we pray for Prince William and Catherine Middleton
as they get ready for their wedding day.
Keep them safe,
make them happy
and help them
to look after each other always. Amen
This one is apparently intended for children to pray, but it works for me, and says most of the things that most people would want to pray about a marriage. There's still plenty of time before the 29th to edit that webpage.