I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition in which we prided ourselves on being “led by the Spirit” to pray extemporaneously (i.e. off the cuff). Consequently, we viewed those “liturgists” who read prayers out of a book as spiritually suspect at best. The idea of reading a prayer, especially a prayer written by somebody else, appeared to us to make as much (or as little) sense as reading somebody else’s love letter to your beloved.
While I am presently a low church Baptist (another tradition generally skeptical of liturgy, if not as dismissive as the Pentecostals), I have come to appreciate the value of liturgy generally and written prayers in particular. To put it bluntly, when I compare a prayer from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to the typical extemporaneous prayer one is likely to hear in a Pentecostal or Baptist church, the reverence, theological content and orthodoxy, and compact eloquence of the former more than makes up for the lack of context-specific content one is likely to hear in the extemporaneous prayer.
All this brings me to an interesting observation that my friend, theologian Robin Parry made whilst we were in a recent conversation. He noted that the exact same people who react adversely to the prospect of reading a prayer of others will have no problem singing the prayers of others in corporate music. It’s an interesting point and one that identifies an intriguing and largely unexamined double standard.