We use the same prayers today, with two modifications:
- The word “hath” has been replaced by the modern word “has” in the first prayer (as it appears in D&C 20:77).
- The word “wine” is replaced by “water” in the second prayer. (See Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 20.4.3.)
The two prayers are similar to one another. Today, I’m going to talk about the structure of the prayers. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the differences between them.
Both prayers consist of a single sentence in three parts.
1. The Petition
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread [wine] to the souls of all those who partake [drink] of it…
The first portion of the prayer is a petition or a supplication. We ask Heavenly Father to sanctify (make holy) the bread and water which will symbolize the flesh and blood of His Son. We specifically request that He make these items holy to our souls, which reminds us that this ordinance is intended to nourish us spiritually.
2. The Purpose
…that they may eat [do it] in remembrance of the body [blood] of thy Son…
The prayer then specifies the reason we are performing this action: to remember the Savior’s suffering on our behalf. When Jesus instituted the sacrament, both in Jerusalem and on the American continent, He told the participants that the bread represented His body and that the wine represented His blood. He told them to “always” participate in this ordinance as a way of remembering Him.
3. The Promises
…and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
[…that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.]
The last part of the prayer is the declaration of the covenant we are making as we participate. By eating this bread and drinking this water, we “witness,” or attest to God that we are willing to do three things:
1. Take upon ourselves the name of Christ
2. Always remember Him
3. Keep His commandments
In return, we receive the promise that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. This is consistent with the Savior’s statement when He introduced the sacrament on the American continent: “If ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7, 11).
This Sunday, as I participate in the sacrament, I will pay particular attention to the words of the prayers. I will remember that the bread and water are sanctified to my soul. I will remember the physical suffering the Savior endured willingly on my behalf. And I will recommit to the promises I have made to God, trusting that His Spirit will always be with me as I always remember the Savior.