Sponsor spotlight: What is common prayer?

Anglican prayer and worship are predominantly derived from The Book of Common Prayer, a collection of liturgies, lections (readings), and prayers that was first compiled in 1549. Over the centuries the Prayer Book, or BCP as it is sometimes called, has been updated, but always the underlying purpose remains: to provide Christians with a language of common prayer.

The word common in the title of our prayer book does not mean ordinary (though of course prayer is to become the ordinary way of our being in the world). Rather, it is related to the word for community, for this is a communal prayer book. The Book of Common Prayer contains the prayers that we share, that we hold in common.

These common prayers shape us. Anglican liturgies are threaded through with the words of the Bible. Or, in the words of Anglican J. I. Packer, “The Book of Common Prayer is the Bible arranged for worship.” Morning and Evening Prayer services include several psalms as well as other songs from the Scriptures, as well as two additional readings from the Bible. Even the prayers we pray in these services are woven together from the words of scripture. By praying these common prayers, we are shaped by the Holy Scriptures.

Further, Anglican prayer services follow the pattern of the Gospel, so their very structure reflects and reinforces our faith. Morning and Evening Prayer begin with the confession of sin, continue with the declaration of forgiveness, and end with thanksgiving.

This structure is, in miniature, a reflection of the whole life of the Christian. When we come into the presence of a holy God, we realize our unholiness; as St. Peter said when he first recognized who Jesus was, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Then we receive forgiveness, the grace of a new beginning, a clean slate, a fresh start, a pure heart. And our response to God’s gift of grace is gratitude. This is why the Morning and Evening Prayer services in the 2019 prayer book always end with the General Thanksgiving—to remind us of all we have been given in Christ and to give voice to the only appropriate response: gratitude and praise.

Common prayer also unites us with other believers around the world and throughout time. It connects us, in other words, with the communion of saints, both those who are alive today and those who have passed on to glory. These are their words, too, and as we pray them, we inhabit the same spiritual world which they inhabit. Together, though far removed in space and time, we enter the kingdom of God through our common prayer.

— By K.C. Ireton, author, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year
parishioner, Holy Trinity Edmonds

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