Christian Prayers and Worship Resources

Prayer as litany



Litanies 1

A definition of litany

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes litany as:
'A form of prayer consisting of a series of petitions or biddings sung or said by a deacon, priest, or cantors, to which the people make a fixed response.

The litany apparently originated at Antioch in the 4th century, spreading to Constantinople and later to the West.

Pope Gelasius I (492-6) introduced into the Mass a litanic intercession, of which the Kyrie (the response prayer Kyrie Eleison - Lord, have mercy) is the sole surviving relic.'

Within the Anglican tradition the Kyrie appears as;

Lord, have mercy,

Christ, have mercy,

Lord, have mercy.

To illustrate the way in which the Jews used what we now call a litany, we have only to look at the 136th Psalm which was used in the public worship of the Temple, being recited alternately by priest and people.


1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever.
4 To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever.
5 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever.
6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever.
7 To Him who made great lights,
For His mercy endures forever.
8 The sun to rule by day,
For His mercy endures forever.
9 The moon and stars to rule by night,
For His mercy endures forever.
10 To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
For His mercy endures forever.
11 And brought out Israel from among them,
For His mercy endures forever.
12 With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,
For His mercy endures forever.
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
For His mercy endures forever.
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His mercy endures forever.
15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His mercy endures forever.
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 136 in NKJ version)


For some more contemporary litanies on thermes such as Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Wholeness asnd others please follow the   *Next*  button on this and the following pages.

ebooks by John Birch


find us on FaceBook

Copyright © John Birch, 2016 · Prayers written by the author may be copied freely for worship. If reproduced anywhere else please include acknowledgement to the author/website  ·  We use cookies, but only to track visits to our website. No personal information is stored.