Abba Father: sung prayer

The song ‘Abba Father, let me be…’ (Dave Bilbrough) seemed ripe for ‘tweaking’ into a sung version of the Lord’s prayer. I had in mind using it, say, as a midday prayer. There are a couple of points where the scansion may trip you up and I think it might be helpful for me to see whether I can sort a musical notation version to help at those points. Specifically: v.1 line 4, ‘grace’ should be sung on the third note, ‘your’ should extend over the first two notes. On line 6, ‘you never’ is sung one syllable per note -the original version may mislead you into having two notes for the first syllable. Similarly for line 6 of the third verse.

Abba, Father, hallowed be
hallowed be your name.
You are loving, just and kind
your grace ever the same.
We your children, you our God;
You never let us go.
Abba Father, hallowed be
hallowed be your name

Loving Parent, may your peace
grow in all the earth.
your agenda be fulfilled;
bring your will to birth.
As we seek your kindly reign
give us bread and means.
Loving Father, may your peace
grow in all the earth.

Lay aside our sins O God
bring us back to Life;
we forgive each others’ wrongs
-save our souls from strife.
Keep us on your path O God
Save us from going astray.
From temptation lead us, God
Out of wrong show the way.

To hear the basic melody with unobtrusive accompaniment, try this.


Benedictus (Song of Zechariah) | Magnificat (Song of Mary) | Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon) | Message of the Cross| What we have received | The Song of Christ’s Glory | Song of the Cosmic Christ | You are worthy | Great and Wonderful| Canticle of Solomon| Canticle of Salvation | Canticle of God’s Word | A Song of Ezekiel

‘Canticles’ is a word used to label portions of the Bible which are traditionally used in prayer together in daily offices. These ‘little songs’ (which is what the word roughly means) are often presented as songs or poetry in scripture. Sometimes the term is used of poems or prose pieces which are like the scriptural canticles but not actually found in the Bible or the Apocrypha.

This collection is gathered in this place to make it easier for you to find other canticles if you want to use them instead of ones set within the texts of the offices in the book. Some of those in this section are not found in the daily or seasonal prayer-forms. To get back to where you were, it is probably easiest to use the ‘back’ button on your e-reader.

The following are all in bold to remind us that the default for group-prayer is to say them together. However, they could be said back and forth using alternate lines or each person taking a line or in some other way.

Each of these can be followed by this form of words:

Hallowed be your name Father, 
through the Son, 
in the Holy Spirit: 
As in the beginning; 
so now; and forever. Amen.

That is a version of a traditional doxology:
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to The Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be forever. Amen.

The “Hallowed be…” version is an attempt to present it in a way that preserves the Father-centred focus of the Lord’s prayer. It is not meant in any way to indicate a disagreement with the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Benedictus, “The Song of Zechariah”

“Benedictus” is from the Latin word for ‘blessed’ which is the first word in the canticle. This version has been changed slightly from the contemporary English one most contemporary prayer books would use. It has been change in form so as to directly address God as ‘you’ rather than referring to God less directly as ‘he’ and ‘him’. A couple of lines which are an aside to the Christ Child in the original text in Luke chapter 2, have also been omitted.

Blessed are you, Lord God of Israel;
you have come to your people and set us free.
You have raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
born of the house of your servant David.
Through your holy prophets you promised of old
to save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us;
to show mercy to our forebears
and to remember your holy covenant.
This was the oath you swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship you without fear,
holy and righteous before you, all the days of our life.
In your tender compassion, O God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Based on the English translation of the Benedictus copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation..

The Magnificat: “The Song of Mary”

“Magnificat” is the first word in the Latin version of this canticle and means ‘magnifies’ or ‘proclaims the greatness of’. This version of the canticle has been changed slightly from the contemporary English one most contemporary prayer books would use. It has been change in form so as to directly address God as ‘you’ rather than as ‘he’ and ‘him’.

My soul proclaims your greatness O Lord;
my spirit rejoices in you O God our Saviour,
You have looked with favour on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call us blessed:
Almighty, you have done great things for us,
and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel,
remembering your promise of mercy,
the promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Based on the English translation of the Magnificat -The Song of Mary, Luke 1:46-55- copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation.

The Song of Simeon:.”Nunc Dimittis”

“Nunc Dimittis” comes from the first two words in the Latin version of this canticle and means, roughly, ‘Now let leave’. Traditionally it is used in Night prayer and on the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple (“Candlemas”) when Simeon’s prophecy over the infant Christ is recalled.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

English translation of the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2:29-32, copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation. Used within terms of licence

The Message of the Cross

This is not a traditional canticle, but it has some of the character of one and some may like to use it at various times.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom,
God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation,
to save those who believe.
For some demand signs and others desire wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling-block to some and foolishness to others.
But to those who are the called,
Christ is the power of God
and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

                                               From 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

What we have received

What we have received
is not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand
what God has freely given us.
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,”
except by the Holy Spirit.

                                             1 Corinthians 12:3b

The Song of Christ’s Glory

Though in the form of God,
Christ did not regard equality with God as something to be held.
He emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave.
Jesus was born in human likeness;
and found in human form.
He humbled himself
and was obedient into death
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly exalted Christ
giving the name above every name.
So at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

                                             from Philippians 2

A Song of the Cosmic Christ

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For in Christ all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

                                              From Colossians 1:16ff

You are Worthy

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you made all things,
by your will everything persists
and was created

                                                Revelation 4:11

Great and Wonderful

Great and Wonderful are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, O ruler of the nations.
Who shall not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
For you alone are holy.
All nations shall come and worship in your presence:
for your just dealings have been revealed.
To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might, for ever and ever.

                                                       Revelation 15.3,4

Canticle of Solomon

Blessed are you,
O God of our ancestor Israel
for ever and ever.
Yours, O Lord, are the greatness,
the power, the glory,
the victory, and the majesty;
for all that is in the heavens
and on the earth is yours;
yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
and you are exalted as head above all.

                                                 1 Chronicles 29:10-11

A Canticle of Salvation

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before You
as they rejoice at harvest time
For You have shattered their burdensome yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness
from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

                                                   Excerpted from Isaiah 9.2-7

A Canticle of God’s Word.

O God, Your thoughts are not our thoughts,
nor are our ways your ways, O Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are your ways higher than our ways
and your thoughts than our thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall your word be that goes out from your mouth;
it shall not return to you empty,
it shall accomplish what you purpose,
and succeed in what you sent it for.
For we shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

                                               see Isaiah 55.8-12

A Song of Ezekiel

You take us from the nations,
you gather us from every land,
You sprinkle clean water upon us,
and wash us from all our uncleannesses,
as from all our idols you cleanse us.
A new heart you give us,
a new spirit you put within us.
You remove from our body the heart of stone
and give a heart of flesh.
we are your people,
and you are our God.

                                        based on Ezekiel 36.24-26,28b

Church of England and canons

There are two strands of canons which are pertinent here. One is about what forms of service are authorised, the other is what a priest is meant to do in terms of daily office.
In short CofE priests are supposed to say Morning and Evening prayer each day (Canon C46) and those services are defined by canons in terms of what they are and should or may contain.
So the issue for the forms of service on this site and in the Book of Our Common Prayer is whether they can be considered as Morning and /or Evening Prayer. This, then, leads us to what constitutes or could constitute those services in canonical terms.
This covers the issue of public worship: for the ordained MP and EP are obliged upon them. At this point then, the form of prayer becomes notable and the Service of the Word may apply.
The authorisation under B1 (which constitutes the forms of service which may be used) extends, by the powers of B2, to the Service of the Word (in Common Worship). Meaning that a Service of the Word as defined in Common Worship may be a form of Morning or Evening Prayer.
The MP & EP forms published on the CofE website are considered thus:
“The orders for Prayer During the Day, Morning and Evening Prayer and Night Prayer comply with the provisions of A Service of the Word, which is authorized pursuant to Canon B 2 of the Canons “
The main thing for our purposes, then, is that the BoCP may “comply with the provisions of A Service of the Word” in such a way as to be considered Morning or Evening Prayer. To do this they must comply with the ‘shape’ of the SotW and with any particulars within that shape.
A Service of the Word (details can be found here):
“…consists almost entirely of notes and directions and allows for considerable local variation and choice within a common structure…”
Overall the aim is to have a liturgy with a preparatory phase, liturgy of the Word, prayers and conclusion. Here are the directions:


  The minister welcomes the people with the Greeting.
  Authorized Prayers of Penitence may be used here or in the Prayers.
  The Venite, Kyries, Gloria, a hymn, song, or a set of responses may be used.
  The Collect is said either here or in the Prayers.
In BoCP mostly a set of responses constitutes this phase. A collect is sometimes commended (and could be used additionally in any case). See below for some further comment on prayers of penitence but note here that in the Lord’s prayer, the petitions to do with forgiveness are late in the prayer which is the pattern for BoCP ordering.

The Liturgy of the Word

  The people and the priest:
  ¶ proclaim and respond to the word of God
In BoCP, there are usually prayers or responses to lead into the readings and some to encourage reflection (ie ‘response’). Because of a sense of continuity, canticles are also encouraged as part of a response. A number of the forms also have scriptural phrases which make explicit a response of faithful following.


  The people and the priest:
  ¶ pray for the Church and the world
The BoCP patterns this section after the Lord’s Prayer and most of the petitionary sections explicitly or implicitly fulfil the gloss.

The Dismissal

  The people and the priest:
  ¶ depart with God’s blessing.
With regard to BoCP a little more needs to be said. Departing with God’s blessing is a vague phrase, but I note that the final section of the Lord’s prayer as played out in these prayers involves us in committing our ways to God and asking God’s help as we go further into the day, this can be construed as going with God’s blessing.
There is a further consideration also. In the Notes section we find the following further instruction:
“Only authorized Prayers of Penitence should be used. They may be omitted except at the Principal Service on Sundays and Principal Holy Days”
So, there is an issue about authorised forms of penitence since most of the BoCP forms do not contain authorized Prayers of Penitence. Even though the penultimate section of the Lord’s prayer deals with forgiving and being forgiven the words used are not drawn from the collection of authorised prayers of penitence.
One thing we might note is that the prayers of penitence may be omitted (except on Sundays’ principal service etc). With regard to BoCP, we might say that prayers of penitence in the CofE sense are being omitted but note that included in the Prayers section are some ‘reflections’ or more general prayers on forgiving and being forgiven -following the pattern of the Lord’s prayer.
It is worth noting, in this connection that often intercessions in a main service, such as Holy Communion, contain phrases to do with forgiveness that are not ‘Prayers of Penitence’. So there is a case for simply not regarding the forgiveness prayers in BoCP as official Prayers of Penitence in this context. That is, not construing these forgiveness prayers in BoCP as Prayers of Penitence so much as part of praying for the church and the world. In some of the BoCP orders of service, in fact, this is made plausible by having responses which are strongly linked to the rest of the prayers. As a further reference point in authorised provision of texts, we might also consider as a precedent the litany which has prayers asking for mercy and forgiveness.  These petitions for God’s mercy etc are not Prayers of Penitence under canonical provision but rather penitential parts of more general prayers. So we may regard the forgiveness prayers in BoCP orders of service.
Recall further that none of the CofE Prayers of Penitence include an explicit section corresponding to the Lord’s prayer’s line on forgiving others, so that the BoCP forgiveness prayers are not covering the same ground as the Prayers of Penitence in official provision since these latter do not generally make explicit an exercise in forgiving others.
Also note: “a Creed or authorized Affirmation of Faith may be omitted except at the principal service on Sundays and Principal Holy Days”. Note that this refers to a principal service so this means that in many circumstances a creed need not be added to BoCP orders of service. But if a BoCP service was being used as a principal service on such a day, it would be easy enough to add one at an appropriate point (probably at the end of the liturgy of the word section and before the prayers section or possibly at or towards the end of the prayers or dismissal section.

Some Canonical quotes for reference

The overarching thing for ordained and licensed lay ministers is Canon B1.
Section 2 of which says:
Every minister shall use only the forms of service authorized by this Canon, except so far as he may exercise the discretion permitted by Canon B 5. It is the minister’s responsibility to have a good understanding of the forms of service used and he shall endeavour to ensure that the worship offered glorifies God and edifies the people.
In addition we may note the discretion to vary orders of service given in Canon B5.1
 The minister who is to conduct the service may in his discretion make and use variations which are not of substantial importance in any form of service authorized by Canon B 1 according to particular circumstances.
In B5. 3 .his we find a principle that

All variations in forms of service and all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.

With regard to daily prayer,
Canon B11:
2. On all other days the minister of the parish, together with other ministers licensed to serve in the parish, shall make such provision for Morning and Evening Prayer to be said or sung either in the parish church or, after consultation with the parochial church council, elsewhere as may best serve to sustain the corporate spiritual life of the parish and the pattern of life enjoined upon ministers by Canon C 26. Public notice shall be given in the parish, by tolling the bell or other appropriate means, of the time and place where the prayers are to be said or sung.
3. The reading of Morning and Evening Prayer in any parish church as required by this Canon may only be dispensed with in accordance with the provisions of Canon B 14A.

We may note, of course, that this applies to public services in licensed buildings and has no direction for ‘private prayers’.

C 26 Of the manner of life of clerks in Holy Orders

1. Every clerk in Holy Orders is under obligation, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause, to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly; and to celebrate the Holy Communion, or be present thereat, on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. He is also to be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in examination of his conscience, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures and such other studies as pertain to his ministerial duties.