The Book of Common Prayer
Our last three letters on prayer focused on bringing us deeper into a practice of prayer from the heart, (if you haven’t read those, please go to our website, and click on Blog – they are all there). Today I want to share how the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) can be a great tool to grow into that practice.
For some of you who might be knew to Anglicanism, the BCP has been one of the longest running and wonderful tools for the spiritual practice of prayer. It isn’t meant only for Sunday morning church services. It is also best used as a daily devotional tool.
I love having time to pray during the week in the Sanctuary. It’s a privilege going to that sacred space and praying. Most often I am praying through the Prayer Book and praying for you. If you have never prayed in the quiet sanctuary, please know that you can. It is a beautiful experience!
Although the BCP was first written by Thomas Cranmer in 1549, most of the prayer book is simply Scriptures put together for prayer. There are readings of the Psalms and other Scripture references for you to look up, 365 days a year. You can actually read through the whole Bible in a year, if you want (Pages x-xliii – Psalms and Lessons for the Christian year).
There have been many editions of the prayer book since then, including the 1928 edition used in our services, and newer ones like the 1979 and 2019. I would encourage you to find one that best speaks to you, and incorporate it into your daily rhythm of prayer.
Here are some practical tips:
Although the BCP has both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer times, you may just want to start with one. Some days you could do morning prayer (starts on pg. 3, 1928 ed.) some days do the evening prayer (pg. 21). Be kind to yourself! This is not about the quantity of reading and praying you do, but the quality of time spent in God’s Presence! (Again, please read our last 3 letters).
Take your time. Developing a new habit doesn’t happen overnight. The good news is that being exposed to the whole counsel of the Word is life-giving and life-changing. There are large portions of Scripture that are never read on Sunday, especially the Old Testament. Please take a look at the pages in the BCP with these readings. In the 1928 version, it’s right in the beginning (Pgs. x-xliii – Psalms and Lessons for the Christian year). Other versions have it spread throughout.
Whether you are used to reading through one specific book of Scripture in your devotional time, or use the BCP, take a few verses that speak to you, sit in His presence, and spend some time praying them and listening to His voice. When you’re open to and seeking Him, you will experience His love shaping and forming you.
You can also incorporate some specific prayers from the BCP (pages 35-53, 1928 ed) into this practice. Each of these prayers have headers for specific topics, that may be fitting for any given situation. Some examples are:
For our Country (pg. 36)
For Unity of God’s people (pg. 37)
For Social Justice (pg. 44)
For a Sick Person (pg. 45)
One of my favorites prayers from the BCP, I pray almost daily in the sanctuary, is “For the Church”.
It says: “O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech the for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it, where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it, where is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.” (Pg. 37)
I want to finish this article drawing your attention to something that fascinates me. As I shared in the previous letters on prayer, I had a very transformative experience when setting time aside to pray in an old shed, behind my college house, after clearing out the beer cans and spiderwebs. Today, I’m sharing with you how I love to sit and pray in our beautiful stain-glassed sanctuary on a daily basis. In both scenarios what fascinates me is that the God of the Universe, who loves me and you deeply, loves to make Himself known to us no matter where we are.
It is true that He speaks to us when we are driving, cleaning, waking up, or falling asleep. He can even speak in our dreams! But, there’s something special about setting a time and place to meet with Him. I look forward to hearing about your own experiences of growth and intimacy with your Creator. I pray you find Joy and Beauty in your journey towards a daily habit of prayer!
Blessings and peace,