What’s In the Book of Common Prayer?

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If you are new to Anglicanism it can be a little intimidating to use the Book of Common Prayer. Is it a book for services of the church? Or is it a book for daily devotional? The answer is yes to both. To be honest, when first approaching the Prayer Book it can feel a little bit like trying to crack a code to a safe or putting together a puzzle. Where do you actually begin? This is a simple introduction to the contents of the Book of Common Prayer that can help you understand how to use it in worship and in your home.

It is important to remember that purpose of the Book of Common Prayer is to put the prayers and liturgies into the hands of common people. It was originally designed to involve people in common worship and prayer not to exclude them. Once you get used to the rhythms and cadences of the Book of Common Prayer it becomes a part of your heart and soul. Prince Charles of Wales recently commented on how the words of the Book of Common Prayer have influenced his life, “As somebody who was brought up on that prayer book- day after day, year after year, Sunday after Sunday, school worship after school worship, evening prayer, communion, everything- those words do sink into your soul in some extraordinary way.”

The Book of Common Prayer can be divided into several sections.

  1. There is the daily office that has services for morning and evening prayer. The daily office can be used by individuals, families, or in worship with others.
  2. There are collects, which are prayers that are to be prayed throughout the seasons of the Christian Year.
  3. There are liturgies for Holy Baptism and Holy Communion as well as other services such as confirmation, Holy marriage, and burial for the dead.
  4. There is an ordinal with services for ordination of a bishop, priest, and deacon.
  5. There is a Psalter (the book of Psalms), which can be read daily throughout the year.
  6. There is a section that has the catechism, creeds, and Thirty-Nine Articles, which offer a concise summary of the essentials of the Christian faith.
  7. Finally, there is a lectionary, which is a systematic way of reading through the Scriptures throughout the year, either in private or public worship.

Whether through worship, Scripture, or teaching the faith, each of these sections guides the believer into a deeper expression of the Christian life. Every part of the Prayer Book has something unique to offer the Christian. So explore the Book of Common Prayer and experience the holistic worship that it embodies.

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Winfield Bevins has a passion for equipping others to spread the gospel in their own context. He serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. As a seasoned practitioner, he has used his experience to train leaders from diverse backgrounds on three different continents. He frequently speaks at conferences, churches, seminaries and retreats on a variety of topics. He is the author of several books, including Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting. He and his wife Kay, have three beautiful girls Elizabeth, Anna Belle, and Caroline.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Bevins,
    Which version of the BCOP do you recommend the most? I have a number of friends who are a little cautious concerning the 1979 U.S. Episcopal edition.
    I ask as a Wesleyan United Methodist who has benefited from years with the Book of Common Prayer (so that like Prince Charles, it has thoroughly sunk in).

  2. Randy,
    There are obviously different views of the 1979 BCP, however it is a great place to start when trying to navigate Prayerbook spirituality. The New ACNA Text for Common Prayer is free online I would recommend that as well. If you are looking for an intro to daily prayer, check out the Field Guide to Daily Prayer we published through Seedbed. Blessings! Winfield

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