What is a Litany?

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A litany is a congregational prayer, usually read as a responsive reading between a leader and a congregation, often used in traditional or liturgical church settings. I began writing litanies because I couldn’t find congregational prayers on the internet that articulated what I felt or addressed a particular subject or event in a way that suited my church’s casual, non-denominational setting. So I started writing them myself.

Over the years writing litanies has evolved into a personal artform and a way of meditation and reflection for myself. It has also become a way of processing and responding to circumstances in my own life and events in the world. And it has become a way that I hope to be useful the broader church in its articulation of faith and interaction with culture.

Sometimes things happen and we don’t know what to pray; circumstances arise, tragedies occur, and we find ourselves either at a loss for words or overwhelmed by our own emotions. That’s when it’s helpful to have a prayer to pray, and I think that’s part of what liturgy is about. And it’s what Psalms are about: that mind-spirit training, centering, using our experience as a doorway into the bigger story of what God is doing in the world.

Congregational prayers add a layer of depth onto that idea: that we are in this story together, and here we are praying the same words aloud and entering into a broader story than just our own experience. Together we are on the journey, living out the story of redemption and resurrection, receiving together the grace and perspective that comes from focusing on Jesus’ story. And together we can pray words that help us understand the gospel and re-imagine our lives in light of it.

Unless otherwise noted, all litanies on this site are original, written by me, Fran Pratt. Let me know if you’d like to use one in your congregational setting, and I appreciate if you cite me as author.

-Fran


Fran is Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, TX. She's also a liturgist, musician, songwriter and mom. Contact her via email on the contact page.