On the first Sunday of Lent in the 9 & 11:15 am Church services, we will begin our observance of this pentitential season by praying the historic Great Litany. A litany is a type of prayer with fixed responses to short biddings said by the officiant. Litanies are often penitential in nature and involve processions: the clergy and the congregation praying while walking in or around the church.
The Great Litany is the first liturgy written in English for use in public worship. Using a wide variety of ancient sources combined with some original prayers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer wrote the Great Litany in 1544 at the request of Henry VIII to be prayed as the nation faced war with France.
The Great Litany continues to be prayed today in Anglican churches across the globe, especially before Lent or in times of national distress. We are invited to ask God for mercy, pardon, and help for a great variety of things—more than we typically think on our own. The Great Litany gives us a chance to take stock of our hearts and to cast ourselves on the mercies of God.