Before blogs existed, email did.
(From the NTJ, Jan. 1997)
From: Glenn Morangie
To: T. Glen Livet
Date: 9/3/96 9:28am
The word here in Green Bay is that I am not impressed by arguments against exclusive psalmody. Mr. Mears gave one in Sunday School this week.
Here are my reasons: 1) that we may sing hymns is not very Reformed even though it may work for Lutherans; 2) if we believe that Col. 3 commands the singing of hymns, why hasn’t our denomination commissioned capable people to write hymns reflecting NT revelation? 3) why also do we sing prayers written by men, namely Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts in the “golden age” of hymnody, who couldn’t pass licensure or ordination exams (and so wouldn’t be allowed to lead prayer in public worship)? 4) is any hymn as good as a good metrical psalm? 5) why does our denomination rely so heavily on John Murray on Gen. 2:7 but when it comes to Eph. 5 or Col. 3 finds him to be quite human? and 6) don’t we need to revise our standards since the divines were exclusive psalmodists (and isn’t our fudging here the tip of the iceberg when it comes to other worship novelties)?
Of course, none of these make a convincing case for exclusive psalmody. But I do think exclusive psalmody is more prudential than hymnody. I am sure you disagree. But you are a disagreeable fellow. Any thoughts?
From: T. Glen Livet
To: Glenn Morangie
Date: 9/3/96 9:27am
Without repeating the arguments with which you are familiar, there are a few thoughts that are persuasive to me:
1) Eph. 5 and Col. 3 are irrelevant. Neither passage addresses the saints assembled; each addresses mutual duties believers have to one another apart from their covenant-assembly. Further, the pronoun translated “one another” is actually the reflexive pronoun (heautois, not allelois), and might properly be translated, “singing to yourselves with…”
2) The evidence of 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” I think it is entirely unpersuasive in this context, that the “hymn” spoken of is a canonical OT psalm. Manifestly, the passage deals with the saints gathered in assembly, and it appears appropriate to the new era in the history of redemption that, just as “revelation” and “teaching” (translated “lesson” here) continue, in response to the person and work of Christ, so also hymnody responds thereto.
3) Throughout the history of revelation prior to the coming of Christ, Israel’s hymnody grew; new psalms were added at each significant phase of redemptive history (e.g., songs of captivity were followed by songs of deliverance, during and after the exile). It would be extremely odd, therefore, if, when redemptive history reaches its zenith, the covenant community’s hymnody would be silent for the first time ever. Of all times for singing to the Lord “a new song,” the day of resurrection is the time to do so.
4) Not surprisingly, then, the songs sung by the redeemed saints, recorded in the book of Revelation, are never canonical OT psalms, and further, they are explicitly Christo-centric (not merely implicitly so). Either those songs are sinful to sing at all, or sinful to sing on earth. The first isn’t possible; the latter isn’t likely, because elsewhere in the NT the “heavenly pattern” is to be our conscious goal and pattern. We are to seek the things above (including, presumably, the heavenly praise).
5) While the literary evidence is not 100% clear, there do appear to be hymns imbedded in the NT (e.g. Phil. 2) itself, suggesting that such were sufficiently well-known as to be cited by the apostle.
For what it’s worth, I think #3, above (and the closely-related #4) are the most compelling reasons. I not only don’t think exclusive psalmody is required; I honestly believe exclusive psalmody is sinful, that it is sinful not to sing praises that explicitly celebrate the person and work of Christ.
I DO concede that there are prudential reasons for not singing every hymn in the hymnal; and I surely concur that many of them are horrible. I’ve only approved about 1/7th of the hymns in the Trinity Hymnal for use in our church, for instance. But, as we all know, an argument against the abuse of a thing is no argument against the thing itself.
37 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Psalms vs. Hymns”
Having been raised in the RPCNA, I have a deep appreciation for the psalms. However, I still find the RPW argument for exclusive psalmody unconvincing and potentially schismatic (I realize that this is the same charge thrown at those who sing hymns, but that is the nature of the argument.) It seems that the scriptures and tradition regarded singing as an extension of prayer. That is the way Calvin treated it. If that is the case, then singing uninspired hymns is in no way a violation of the RPW. However, as mentioned, there is a very strong prudential argument for psalmody, or at least the singing of inspired material. I have always wondered why we sing Fanny Crosby hymns. Not only would she not be able to pray from the pulpit due to her theology, but also because of her gender.
Finally, something that Reformed and Lutherans really DO disagree on…
Mr. Foggy Spectacles forgot the charge of EP being Pharisaical. Come on, let’s keep with the program, really!
Col. 3.16 (rev.):
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, psalms, and spiritual psalms with gratitude in your hearts to God.
I want to know, which are the unspiritual psalms?
Funny. EP is not Pharisaical. The way some people treat it, it can turn into that. But the same can be said for any church practice.
There you, go, see that wasn’t so hard was it? Now the caricature is complete.
Instead of framing the debate by asking whether we should sing psalms or hymns, how about if we ask instead: Does scripture provide us with a warrant for singing uninspired songs in worship?
Notice how when we frame the issue this way, Glen’s email response completely misses the mark. The best he can do is argue for what seems plausible in his eyes, e.g. phrases such as: “it appears appropriate to the new era in the history of redemption that …” “It would be extremely odd, therefore, if, …” “While the literary evidence is not 100% clear, there do appear to be hymns imbedded in the NT …”
These phrases express an opinion, but do not demonstrate a scriptural warrant.
Would you be OK with Crosby or Watts hymns if they had “anonymous” on them? In my judgment, it doesn’t especially who wrote them if the content is right.
(Can a pastor use a greek lexicon edited by a pagan liberal scholar in preparing his sermon?)
I first practiced and came to love EP worship in one of the four or so American Presbyterian congregations, but I could never join their communion. Rev. Livet appears similarly disqualified.
To which TH did he refer? And either way, is the blue Trinity the peaty edition?
“t seems that the scriptures and tradition regarded singing as an extension of prayer. That is the way Calvin treated it.”
While both singing and prayer are considered the ‘praise of God’, one is actually that, in God’s own words, according to the West. Stands. and pretty much Calvin, though the issue wasn’t as cut and dried in his time. The other is the praise and petition of God in prayer.
Further consider the ordinary elements of worship: the reading and preaching of Scripture, the praise of God in psalmody and prayer. The first two in each couplet are restricted to the inspired text respectively of Scripture and the Psalter; the second two are based upon the inspired text, but with liberty to enlarge and expound upon Scripture. Like it or not, that is the paradigm the Westminster divines had in mind whether one agrees with it or not. Nothing else harmonizes and answers to the Standards and what we know of their practice.
If the heavenly pattern of Revelation is to be “our conscious goal and pattern” , where does one quit? The smells and bells, candles and incense crowd, not to mention the whore on the Tiber, love the appeal to Revelation as a directory for worship. Which is why it is anglican, if not papist and not reformed.
I wonder if the Covenanters have ever considered chanting psalms. I seem to recall they have some instructions in their psalter. Chanting gets around the problem of metrical versions that employ bad translations for the sake of rhyme and meter.
I also wonder if the hymn singers would be more inclined to sing psalms exclusively if they were also to use a book of common prayer. Being constrained by set forms, either for prayer and or its vocal equivalent of song, does seem to be a disposition that undergirds both psalmody and liturgical prayers.
How many “hymn singers” can extemporaneously compose a song at all let alone during a church service? How many congregations can do that? Even if they could, I’d bet (if I were a bettin’ man) it not very likely to come off decently or in order.
Andrew, Agreed. But if we don’t sing extemporaneously, why do we pray that way?
Couple of things:
One is the pesky WCF 21, which clearly distinguishes between prayer and the singing of psalms. Despite the efforts to confuse prayer and the singing of praise into one flattened element of worship, our Reformed standards don’t teach that.
On congregational and individual levels, things like the sins of which one is guilty, thus needing confession, and God’s daily mercies are specifically targeted towards individuals and specific groups. Should we not specifically acknowledge the His specific merciful providence towards us?
Doesn’t the Apostle Paul say he makes mentions of Philemon specifically in his prayers in Philemon 1:4? Which means he wasn’t reciting a set form. — Unless he was using ABCP Mad-Lib edition.
Prayer is exceeding personal, even corporate congregational prayer is exceedingly personal, which is why we are to address “Our Father, which art in Heaven”. Even though prayers in a book of set prayers is likely to include that phrase, they are still naught but form letters. How personally do you take marketing letters from your bank or insurance company, even those that begin “Dear DGH”? I’ll bet no very, considering the exact same letters (except for the greeting) went to thousands of others. I know I don’t. Addressing our God, God the Father, to whom we come by the mediation of the man Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son, who died for each of us individually with full knowledge of each of us as individuals, loving us enough individually and specifically to give His life for each of us, via a form letter doesn’t seem very personal to me — does it to you?
Christ specifically commands us not to be repetitious Matt 6:7. Are we so sure are we of our own spiritual fortitude that we can recite nothing but prescribed prayers, and not fall into that sin?
Final point, God put a hymn book in the scriptures – set form — God did not include a prayer book in the scriptures, but rather gave us a pattern Matt 6:9-13.
Prayer is exceeding personal, even corporate congregational prayer is exceedingly personal, which is why we are to address â€œOur Father, which art in Heavenâ€.
I agree that prayer is exceedingly persona, but how is prayer any more “personal” than singing or preaching or anything else done in stated worship such that it may escape the sort of preparations needed, well, everything else?
Additionally, we all tend to fall back into our own set forms. Think about the phrases you commonly use in your prayers without even thinking about them. Listen to yourself when you pray before a meal. I dare say there is almost more danger of meaningless repetition in extemporaneous prayer than in written prayers. This is nothing against extemporaneous prayer, it just means that extra care must be taken. Written prayers, whether the psalms or a book of common prayer, should teach and enliven extemporaneous prayer.
Isn’t a psalm a prayer? So if we’re advocating exclusive psalmody, aren’t we in the ballpark of prayer? Otherwise, then we could sing any inspired text, like Jesus’ exchange with Pilate.
I side with Zrim and Foggy on the personal nature of prayer. The other concern is that in corporate worship the personal becomes muted. A prayer for all of the congregation inherently cannot have the same feel as a personal conversation, which is why corporate prayer is more like a petition than a letter.
Some Psalms are prayers some aren’t. So no we’re not in the same ball park. I find your use of the word “could” in “…then we could sing any inspired text…” very telling. So we’re not even in talking about the same kind of RPW. 😉
FS: Really on what basis do you claim that one is more in danger of meaningless repetition when praying extemporaneously, than when using a written prayer? Got any statistics you want to make up for that?
Z: I didn’t discuss preaching or singing of praise with respect to the personal nature of said elements of worship in contrast to prayer. I was talking about extemporaneous vs BCP, etc prayer. Non-sequitur. You would be an effective politician in today’s USA.
DGH: If you really think that a congregational prayer cannot have the same feel as a personal conversation, then I can say I feel sorry for the fact you’ve never really experienced the joy of that. You say inherently, but my experience is quite different.
You would be an effective politician in today’s USA.
Not according to the theonomists, Andrew, nor my wife.
I guess I still don’t see why one element of stated worship (prayer) may be more extemporaneous than another (singing, preaching). Like Foggy said, I don’t have any problem with extemporaneous prayer outside stated public worship. But why does extemporaneous preaching get (rightly) frowned on as revivalist while extemporaneous prayer is encouraged? Seems double-standard-ish.
Andrew: Here’s my two-cents, if you think corporate prayer should be personal, then you’re half-way down to the road to P&W. The only thing that may be restraining you is psalmody. But if that goes, man are you in for a boat load of painful worship.
Come on, you can’t see the difference between dinner with your wife, and dinner with your six closest couple friends (as in 14). Someone at the bigger dinner won’t get much of your attention. How personal is that.
You’ve presented this position a few times in different venues, but I don’t remember you responding to the preface of the original Directory for Publick Worship, especially the paragraph beginning with “Add hereunto.”* Granted that the Divines didn’t have an evangelicalism against which to compare their experiences.
First a church service is not a dinner party. Second, God has infinite attention. Third, you mention wife. The church (corporate) is the bride of Christ is she not? Congregational worship is not n-acts of worship from n-individuals, but is one corporate act of worship. Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we would be one even as He is in the Father and Father in him. The individual members of the church are NOT the wives (plural) of Christ.
There is a difference between personal and individual. My previous form letter analogy was not about the fact it was coming from a corporation. Why is it that the members of churches and organizations that use prayer books (like Anglicans and Papists) so commonly use the phrase “say a prayer”, or need a string/loop of beads while they say their list of memorized “prayers”? My point was that BCP form-prayers are not personal in the way that you the recipient of a form letter are not so much of person but rather a thing to the sender of the letter.
Frankly I’m not sure what P&W is, but since you frame with the words “restraining you is psalmody”, and “a boat load of painful worship” I’m going to guess it is not a good thing. Real Reformed Corporate Worship according the the RPW is personal (not individualistic), intimate, and 100% prescribed by Word of God. It’s not about us, it is about Him. So, no I don’t think I’m any were down that road you mention.
FWIW, I’m not really opposed to prepared prayers, I only insist they be prepared by the man leading in the prayer and for the occasion in question. Believe me, I certainly understand that most ministers especially those under the age of 55 are not very good at extemporaneous congregational prayer, most can’t even consistently use the first person plural. I wonder if we should be ordaining men to the ministry if they can’t demonstrate they can lead a congregational prayer.
Because they are not the same as the WStansds ( WCF and DPW), and Andrew recognize.
Like Mike, I would like to hear your comments on the DPW which was written precisely to overcome the problems of BCPrayer worship.
Not to be too dodgy, but aren’t you relying on the words of men to condemn written prayers? Yes, this is dodgy. But it does make a point about how we are willing to rely upon the words of men for theology and even for ordering worship, but we won’t do this with prayer. If a creed is part of the church’s teaching, and a directory is part of a church’s rule, why can we use prescribed words there but not for the content of our prayers? It does seem to me that the argument against written prayer goes against all kinds of formalism, at least in worship. But the Westminster Standards are a form, and surely every Pentecostal and Quaker knows that the Westminster Standards are guilty of formalism.
So if we can accept prescribed words (subscription vows and all they imply) in some parts of church life, why not in others?
I get it that you don’t want the state prescribing prayers. But the separation of church and state is not where we likely want to go since the exclusive psalmody party has been much more comfortable with the idea of a magistrate who oversees the church than their fears of prescribed prayers suggest. To be explicit, if you’re going to insist on the National Covenant, and the duties of parliament and king to enforce the true religion, you’re not exactly going to be on the side of extemporeneity in religious matters. The state is going to have a hand in liturgy.
Mr Hart et al,
When I attended a Brethren assembly (yes the Darby kind not the anabaptist variety) great stock was placed in not having a liturgy but rather letting the Spirit blow where it will, of course the Spirit was only ever allowed to pick songs from the Believer’s Hymn Book! Currently I attend a Low Church Anglican congregation and we use the BCP, at least in the 8am Holy Communion service I attend. The liturgy is beautiful and the Collects are excellent.
Now I used to adhere to EP, why did I shift? Well, (1) Hab. 3; (2) the singing of Ex. 15 in the Temple; and, (3) I am not convinced that the Psalter was intended as a Hymnbook.
Being neither a historian nor a theologian, I have to rely on the words of men to consider either position. But when the men (plus the American revisions) to whom I submit my understanding of Scripture held to psalmody while excluding forms of prayer in their DPW, I can’t accept their words as valid for ordering worship while dismissing their objections to prayer forms out of hand. Incidentally, I also have memories as a Catholic that confirm their concerns.
I guess some here are Covenanters, but I’m a 2ker as far as I know. This is the only question stopping me from embracing your position and even implementing it at home, for practical reasons. The Divines’ objections to the BCP just carry a lot of weight.
Mike, for me set forms are primarily a theoretical matter, though I write out prayers in my own practice. And for what it’s worth, I am really uncomfortable with meetings where you can be called on to pray without any time to prepare. If I’m going to lead a group in prayer, and take responsibitility for that important duty, I want more time to reflect and compose my thoughts than simply to say, “all in favor, say aye, meeting adjourned, Mr. Hart will you dismiss us in prayer.” This is the place where I think the sound objections to the BCP have been abused to turn we Presbyterians into Pentecostals and Quakers, as if on the spot we can be warm and filled to pray spontaneously.
So I’m not going to make an overture any time soon asking for an OPC BCP. I have a decent sense of better ways to spend my time. But if you can take counsel from the Westminster Divines, you might also take some from Knox, Calvin, and Bucer who did use forms and did so because some ministers did not pray as well as others. If we have a standard in mind for good and bad prayers, and think that our prayers should be the best we can offer (an argument, btw, in favor of psalms over hymns), then we might be less hung up on written prayers versus extemporaneous ones, and more concerned that our worship be the best that it can. I know whenever I enter a Lutheran or Episcopal church I am not going to hear a uneloquent prayer. And many of them are down right good. I wish I had the same confidence when entering a Presbyterian church. I am blessed where I attend and am a member with ministers who prepare and write out notes for their prayers. And our worship is serious. But in settings where you can’t tell the difference between seriousness and frivolity, a form of prayer is a mighty elixir.
The odd thing is that some of the people opposing written prayers are making the world safe for contemporary worship, which has risen to prominence precisely by its appeal to sponteneity and extemporeneity. Written prayers are stuffy. Praise bands are meaningful.
If you have the chance, check out the prayerbook put together for family worship by 150 ministers from the church of Scotland which was first published in the 1841 before the split. Many of the authors were significant defenders of orthodoxy and the prayers breathe a deep penitential reliance on the atonement of Christ.
From the preface:
There is, however, in this country, what we cannot but consider a very unreasonable prejudice against the use of forms in all circumstances. It has arisen from the fearful evils and abuses arising out of the shameless and idolatrous forms of Popery, mumbled over by a lazy and corrupt priesthood, without feeling, and almost without decency; succeeded by the cruel and insane attempts to force upon a reluctant people, forms containing sentiments and rites which they abhorred. Yet it is a well known fact, that our early reformers prepared and used forms in the worship of God, and the sentiments of our forefathers on this head may be gathered from the following passage in the Directory for Family Worship, usually bound up with the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland, and containing many wise and excellent directions:â€”
” So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God ; albeit, those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they bo not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure,” &c.
We need not refer to the form left by our Lord as an example of such a practice ; where his disciples were taught to ” say” the same words. Indeed, what are all the passages of Scripture usually adopted in extempore prayer ? what are the apostolic benedictions, but forms of prayers ? We every day more and more admire the wisdom and piety of our forefathers, who permitted them when necessary, while they did not encourage them where they can be dispensed with. We greatly venerate the practices of our Church, and the habits they have cherished among our people. We are persuaded that it is highly advantageous, in order to keep alive the spirit of devotion, to leave the mind unfettered by fixed forms ; and that there are times and circumstances in the providential and spiritual history of a pious soul and a pious family, for which no previous foresight can provide suitable expression at a throne of grace, and which will overflow all the artificial channels previously prepared. In such cases it would be most improper that the spirit should not be left to its free and unfettered exercise.
At the risk of gaining a status being a DGH foil, and I mean this really as a friendly jab, are the dockets of the session meetings so secret you don’t know what’s going to be conducted? Or is it, that although you prefer to prepare beforehand, the probability of being called on is so small that preparing isn’t worth it, just in case? With a session the size of yours, I guess there is considerable uncertainty regarding the question of upon whom will fall the task of praying during the meeting or at the end. Elders on small sessions know they will have to lead in prayer at least once – so they know they have to prepare. I guess you can be glad you’re not your session’s delegate to Presbytery, or, considering your fame and general level of respect that most have for you, despite the fact you’re only a ruling elder, that would probably happen to you a lot more.
A little more seriously, though,
I’m sure God uses the same scale of eloquence as you do, and definitely considers the “mighty elixir” of eloquence the most important aspect of public prayer. Really DGH, you simply must publish your method of rating eloquence, so that the rest of us might know what is best and therefore pleasing to God, with respect to public prayer. At least let us know which prayer book is better (more eloquent) — the Lutheran or the Episcopal?
I was going to give you a hard time about using the word “hear” in the phrase quoted above, but I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that the congregation is to be passive and simply listen while the minister is leading in prayer. I’m sure you agree that the congregation should be actively praying in their hearts and minds along with the minister although maybe(?) silently? One does wonder at least a little bit on that particular word choice. We certainly know that you have no lack of vocabulary.
Thanks for the reply. You expressed similar sentiments in your recorded lectures (somewhere; they were beside Caleb Stegall presenting the social implications of Bambi vs. The Lion King), and they’re compelling. My only hangup is that coupling a high view of the institutional church with corporate worship as the primary means of Christian piety doesn’t jive with a layman using Calvin/Knox/Bucer/etc. to overrule the DPW. Even if he does, who cares?
An OPC BCP might well be a pipe dream, heh, but if the CRC included recommended forms for prayer in her Psalter Hymnal, perhaps the OPs will consider the same for Psalter Hymnal ’11.
In the Psalter God has given us an inspired book of poem-songs. That should be the center of our praise. Even in a conservative OP church that’s conscious of this it’s exceptional to even get half psalms. Where ever all the logical wrangling about the RPW leads you I think this consideration ought to give the Psalter supreme dominance in worship, as it has most of the Church’s history, OT and NT.
Andrew: I do know how agendas work, and sometimes the arrangements are set so that I know when I’m supposed to pray. I’ve also served on enough committees and faculties to know that I can be called on at the drop of a hat — which is why being moderate is increasingly attractive so that I can be the one dropping the hat. But it sounds to me like I have your approval to own my own DGH BCP. But I thought you objected to the impersonal nature of written set prayers.
And yes, I see your point about hearing prayers. But we still do hear them, just as we hear psalms sung even while singing them.
“Isn’t a psalm a prayer? So if we’re advocating exclusive psalmody, aren’t we in the ballpark of prayer? Otherwise, then we could sing any inspired text, like Jesus’ exchange with Pilate.”
Though it probably didn’t originate with him, still the spectre and long shadow of the greatest reformed latitudinarian of our day, one John Frame, looms large over this discussion. He of the blurred definitions and razed distinctions. Singing is praying is preaching is teaching is walking the dog is picking your nose is fill in the blank. Everything is worship, glory be to the confusion of which my novel innovation of “application” alone shows the way out. Rather one might wish that the idiot savants of apologetics would stick to their expertise. There is no excuse for the gratutitous begging of the question on the part of those who have had some philosophic training regardless if they find the classic confessional RPW their cup of tea. Man up, take an exception to the confession and shut up, please.
Yet the WCF and the DPW clearly distinguish between the two or three disputed elements. Reading and singing are restricted to the Scripture and the inspired Psalter. (It is not enough that the text is inspired, rather did God place it in the Book of Praises.) Praying and preaching enlarge, expand and apply the Scriptural doctrine and petitions to the situation and parties.
Further, if one is weak in parts, conscience or the practice of meditation, the forms in the DPW can easily be turned into prayers. It is not that written prayers are verboten according to the DPW, but they are not commanded, as per the BCP nor the ideal. Rather presbyterians prefer the happy medium of premeditated prayers. FTM in meetings I have been at, it was understood ahead of time whose turn it would be to close in prayer.
But then again, maybe why Johnny can’t pray is because he’s too busy watching baseball, TV and movies, as well as listening to rock and roll (if nothing else, I speak here personally) which in another day were generally considered idle vanities.
And while I have nothing against chanting the psalms, one thing at a time. Covenanting and one’s view of the civil magistrate are not particularly germane to the question.
I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t. I was suggesting something else 😉
No, just applying what I said with respect for preparing a prayer for the particular occasion. If you constantly rely on a form prayer with fill in the blanks, then I think you’ve crossed the line. You leave one with the distinct impression that only answer to New Life worship is to copy the Episcopalians. To me, that is like saying the solution to anarchy is fascism. You’ve just exchanged one set of problems with another, both with very high misery indexes.
Two cents: I’m a layman. Given a choice of whether my pastor’s corporate prayer will be spontaneous or prepared, I’ll choose prepared every time – and for the exact same reason I prefer a prepared sermon. I suppose some men are gifted enough to manage without preparation, but I doubt that is the norm. I’m not sure why we insist on sermon preparation but not on prayer preparation, but I suspect it is because we are infected with revivalism enough to choose a prayer “from the heart” even at the expense of its being clear, well-organized, and articulate.