The Pastor’s Prayer – when entering church for worship

From early on in the history of the Church, the Pastor and his assistants would pray the “Prayer of Ascent” from the 43rd Psalm, as they would go in procession toward the altar at the beginning of the service:

I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.

Now, the references to an ungodly people, and to the deceitful and unjust man, and the oppression of the enemy, are not meant as the Pastor’s characterisation of the congregation he is about to serve – although, in a way, it is that also: On behalf of each and every sinner in the congregation, and on his own, the Pastor prays for deliverance and protection from the evil and ungodliness of the world, and from his own. And he prays that God with His Holy Spirit and with His Word of salvation will comfort His Christians and remind them at heart of His promise of a glorious future in that fullness of joy which is His Kingdom, and will let the joy of His Kingdom be in us already now.

Some Pastors – probably not all that many – will speak the prayer to themselves in Danish translation, because that is how they first came to know it. Other Pastors – and in very few cases, the same – might on occasion, when no organist is present, sing part of the prayer in the form of a hymn:

Why art thou disquiet within me,/Why art thou cast down, o my soul?/Confide in thy God, let Him win thee,/O, hope in thy God, Him extoll./For surely, once breaketh a morrow/When freed from all care and all sorrow/Thou praises shall sing to thy God.

His light and His truth, they will lead me/In peace to His Temple at last;/The pow’r of His Word, that doth speed me/Where conflict and sorrow are past;/Yea, joyful I anthems shall raise Him,/With heart and with voice shall I praise Him,/My health and my life and my God.

Or it might be that the same Pastors will be chanting something more specifically appropriate for that particular Sunday.