A Bidding-prayer (O. Eng. biddan, "to pray", cf. Ger. beten) is the formula of prayer or exhortation to prayer said during worship in churches of the Anglican Communion. It occurs during the liturgy of the word, prior to the sermon. Such formulae are found in the ancient Greek liturgies, e.g. that of St. Chrysostom, in the Gallican liturgy, and in the pre-Reformation liturgies of England.
The form varies, but in all the characteristic feature is that the minister tells the people what to pray for (e.g., the 1662 Book of Common Prayer bidding-prayer form begins, "Let us pray for Christ's holy Catholic Church," provides specifics, and then moves on to the next bidding). It is an informal intercessory prayer, covering a wide variety of concerns such as the church, the state, the living and the dead, and public and private necessities. In England in the 16th century it took the form of a direction to the people what to remember in telling their beads. In the course of time the word bid in the sense of pray became obsolete and was confused with bid in the sense of command (from O. Eng. beodan, to offer, present, and hence to announce, or command; cf. Ger. bieten, to offer, gebieten, to command), and the bidding-prayer came practically to mean the exhortation itself. A form of exhortation which preachers and ministers shall move the people to join with them in prayer is given in the 55th canon of the Church of England (1603).
In contemporary usage, the term "bidding-prayer" has largely been replaced by "intercessory prayers" or "prayers of the people." In keeping with Anglican custom, these are still said according to one or more Prayer Book templates, but are generally designed in such a way that specific topical, seasonal, or cyclical petitions can be added. On occasion, the person leading the prayers will still introduce each petition with the phrase, "I bid your prayers for..."
A bidding prayer is offered at the beginning of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols observed at King's College, Cambridge University, on Christmas Eve; this prayer, whose text has remained largely unaltered since the Festival's inception in 1918, has been heard annually in radio broadcasts of the Festival since the 1930s.
Lutheran church services also include bidding prayers, although they are typically called "prayers of intercession" or "prayers of the people." Some Methodist churches also include bidding prayers.