In Catholic theology the Church maintains that the bread and wine at the Mass is changed by the Holy Spirit through the Priest into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The taking of communion then is unmistakably a sacred affair.
Protestant churches do not accept this doctrine of transubstantiation. The conceptions of the meaning of taking communion vary and are open to differing prayers supported by different theological assumptions. I am struck by the beauty of a prayer recently used at the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell. It is taken from the Iona Community Worship and is said by those receiving communion as they surround the table. Notice that the first paragraph could appear in a Catholic service (though, if approved in the liturgy, it would be said by the Priest and would not be addressed to Christ); the second paragraph could not be said in a Catholic service. It takes a powerful and sacred, but different approach:
Hear us, O Christ,
and breathe your Spirit upon us
and upon this bread and wine.
May they become for us your body
vibrant with your life,
healing, renewing and making us whole.
And as the bread and wine which we now eat and drink
are changed into us,
may we be changed again into you,
bone of your bone,
flesh of your flesh,
loving and caring in the world.