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What Is the Book of Common Prayer?

The Book of Common Prayer is the prayer book for the Anglican communion. The first edition came out in the 1500's. Thomas Cranmer, the great reformer, was very instrumental in putting this book together.

Trevin Wax
What Is the Book of Common Prayer?

The Book of Common Prayer

Transcription of the video above: The Book of Common Prayer is the prayer book for the Anglican communion and I think the first edition came out in the 1500s. Thomas Cranmer, great reformer, was very instrumental in putting this book together. It basically lays out the liturgy for the Anglican church. It has the psalms included in it and then various prayers and what are called Collects and things that are there to aid Christians in their devotion corporately and some individually. 

I discovered the Book of Common Prayer, it's been seven or eight years ago now. I was going through sort of a dry spell in my prayer life and was sensing that I grew up in a traditional that valued spontaneous prayer above all. Everything was about pray whatever's on your heart at whatever time. But I noticed that as I did that over a period of time, my spontaneous prayers sounded really fixed. I was doing the same lists, I was praying the same kinds of things. It began to feel dry and rote and routine and someone actually, a Godly lady in a Baptist church handed me a Book of Common Prayer and said, "You know, you ought to pray some of these prayers and see what it does and how it moves your heart."

I began praying some of them Collects there and began going through the morning prayer and the evening prayer and Compline and was moved because there were prayers in that book that encapsulated the things I would love to say but have never really had the words to express in the way they were there. And I know a prayer book can be just as ritualistic and routine as spontaneous prayers can be. It's not like it's a magic formula that you're supposed to take a prayer book and then make this the centerpiece of your devotion.

But many of those prayers are based in scripture. I found that as I pray scripture, as I pray the psalms, as I pray some of these Collects and prayers that have stood the test of time, I find, I picture myself like a little boy trying on Daddy's shoes. I pray a prayer of Augustine and my heart isn't always there yet. I'm teaching our seven year old how to pray the Lord's Prayer and we pray with him every night. I know he doesn't quite understand everything that it means to say, when we say, "hallowed be your name." Or what means to pray that God's kingdom would come. But I trust that even as we say these words, that as time goes by, as he grows as a Christian, as he gets older, that prayer is going to be filled with more and more content and eventually his heart will be shaped to actually understand and to love those prayers.

It's like trying on Dad's shoes. They don't fit quite right and you're kind of clunking around and you're thinking, would I ever have the spiritual maturity to pray these prayers on my own? But as you grow, you begin to fill in those shoes and you begin to see how those desire of those saints from way back, begin to, are more and more reflective of your own heart. It's a way of redirecting our hearts to the prayers of the psalmist, to the prayers of Christians throughout church history, as a way of identifying with them and then seeking that those prayers and those longings and desires would be true of us just as it was true of them. 

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Originally published July 23, 2013.