Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Maundy Thursday, April 9

Ken Hobart

Holden Evening Prayer – Based on Psalm 141

Let my prayer rise up like incense before you,
the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you...


Ever heard of the Holden Prayer Service? More importantly, ever attended one? If you have not, you truly are missing a spirit-enhancing service, one that is close to my heart.


For several years, Reformation has been using the Holden service during the Wednesday night Advent and Lenten services. For the last couple of years, we have been using it for the evening service on the third Saturday of the month. Written by Marty Haugen during a Lutheran retreat in 1985, it’s a simple, short, graceful service of hymns, readings and a message. It starts with a song leading us into service by asking God to be with us as night is closing in – the whole service is focused on being the light in the darkness, both spiritually and literally.


My favorite piece occurs early on with a song based on Psalm 141, a psalm of David. The original Psalm 141 is a piece pleading to God to keep the writer on the righteous path and help fend off enemies, to the point of “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety”. Haugen’s piece, however, uses the opening of Psalm 141 – “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting of up my hands be like the evening sacrifice” – for something more peaceful, inviting. Those words of the psalm evolve into “Let my prayer rise up/ like incense before you/ the lifting up of my hands/ as an offering to you”. It has gone from a supplication asking for the defeat of enemies to a plea to tighten that connection between God and servant: “Oh God I call to you/come to me now/O hear my voice when I cry to you.”


The music in this particular piece is a simple round, moving gently to and fro, and it always reminds me of the gentle waves of a large body of water. The tune climbs slowly upward before easing downwards. The tune reinforces our love for God by making one feel at peace, as one with our Creator. As the music moves on, the lyrics continue that theme of asking for God’s supervision: “Keep watch within me God/deep in my heart; /may the light of your love/be burning bright.” It concludes with adoration: “All praise to the God of all/Creator of life; /all praise be to Christ/and the Spirit of love.”


The whole service is beautiful, but this piece truly lifts me up. The song stays on my mind for days afterwards. It is truly a reminder of the awesomeness and yet simplicity of our connection with the Trinity. I invite you to join us for the Holden services at 5:30 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month for an experience that you will find as spiritual and as graceful as anything you will experience. Join us – your soul will thank you for it.


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