The Book of Common Prayer

 

One of the most obvious features of the Anglican Orthodox Church is our liturgical form of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer.  We believe this is the Biblical form of worship, meaning it is the way God teaches us to worship in the Bible.  Christ remained with the Apostles for forty days after His resurrection.  During that time He instructed them in the faith, which would include the formation of the Church and its ministry. Competent scholars believe some of the prayers and forms in the Prayer book can be traced to Christ Himself.  The early Church, then, was not shaped by the imaginations of men.  Rather, its doctrine, form, organisation, worship, and orders of ministry were given by the Lord Himself.  The early Church, as found under the Apostolic direction, is that which was given by Christ and recorded in the New Testament.

An honest study of the early Church will reveal that it continued to worship according to the liturgical form of the synagogue, which followed a set order of written prayers, systematic Scripture readings, and singing the Psalms liturgically.  This is the way Jesus worshiped.  This is the way the Apostles worshiped.  This is the way the early Church worshiped.  The Church changed the content of the prayers and hymns from the Old Testament emphasis on the coming Messiah to the New Testament teaching that the Messiah had come. But the early Church retained the liturgical form of worship received from the Old Testament.  The liturgical form can be traced from the early Church to our own day.  If Christ wanted to change the form, why do we not find it changed at the start?  We can only conclude He did not change it because He did not want it changed.  God instituted the liturgical form of worship in the Old Testament, and intended it to continue in the New Testament Church.  This is the primary reason why the Anglican Orthodox Church uses the Prayer Book in public worship.

There are other reasons for using the Prayer Book.  The use of memorized, written prayers frees our minds to concentrate on worship, rather than on creating new prayers and forms of worship.  We don't have to reinvent worship every Sunday.  Worshipers know in advance what the minister will say and what they will pray, so the minister cannot slip something in unawares that may not be Biblical.  They also know that every word of every service is absolutely faithful to the revelation of God in Scripture.  The written liturgy includes the people more fully in the worship. It empowers and frees them to become active worshipers rather than mere spectators watching others worship.  Liturgy frees the people from dependence upon the minister’s creativity, speaking abilities, and personality.  The Prayer Book intentionally puts the minister in the background and the common prayers and actions of the people in the foreground.  The Prayer Book also uses words and phrases from the Bible, so we know we are praying and worshiping Biblically.  The Book of Common Prayer liturgy contains so much Bible in direct quotations, indirect quotations, and paraphrases, that it has been called “the Bible in devotional form.”  Finally, the Prayer Book liturgy is a beautiful, satisfying way to worship God.

Though the use of a Prayer Book is very ancient, our particular Book of Common Prayer owes much to the work of Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer carefully edited earlier prayers and liturgies, many of them of very ancient origin.  He removed Medieval alterations and returned them to the doctrinal and practical purity of the New Testament.  He also wrote new collects and prayers, and added them to the services.  The first Book of Common Prayer in English was published in 1549.  In 1789 the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America published its own Prayer Book.  Since the PECUSA was no longer part of the Church of England, it needed a Prayer Book that reflected the situation of the new nation.  The new Prayer Book was simply the old English Prayer Book edited to pray for presidents and congress rather than kings and parliament. 

The American Prayer Book went through several minor changes, until publication of the well beloved 1928 Prayer Book, used by the Anglican Orthodox Church today.  This edition, like the AOC, intentionally continues the Biblical Christian faith and practice as given in the Bible and continued through the ages in the Church.

 

            Contents of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

 

The first part of the 1928 Prayer Book contains the necessary preliminaries.  There we find the Table of Contents and documents that tell of the ratification, services, selection of Psalms, and preface.  Everyone should read and be familiar with this section, but need not make it the subject of constant use or memorization.  This section begins with the title page and continues through page ix.

The second section is found in pages x through lvii.  The most important part of this section, for most people, will be the Lectionary, or the “Psalms and Lessons for the Christian Year,” pp. x - xli.  This contains the daily Bible readings for Morning and Evening Prayer.  The Scripture reading should be followed even if another reading schedule is also used, and even if the orders for family prayer are used in place of Morning and Evening Prayer in personal and, or, family prayer.

Third is the section of the “Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.”  Morning Prayer begins on page 3; Evening Prayer on page 21.  There is a collection of prayers for almost every occasion and need beginning on page 35.  “The Litany or General Supplication” begins on page 54.  The service for Ash Wednesday is found in pages 60-63.

Fourth comes “The Holy Communion with The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels,” beginning on page 65.  This section contains the full texts of the Epistles and Gospels to be read at Holy Communion, as well as the beautiful and reverent service of Holy Communion.  The Biblical content and Godliness of this service make it one of the most meaningful and beloved worship services in existence.

Fifth, we find the order for various services from Baptism to Burial on pages 270-342.  This is followed by the sixth section containing the complete Psalter, pages 343-525.  Then comes the “Ordinal” and the “Form of Consecration of a Church” and an office of “Institution of Ministers,” pages527-574.  “The Catechism” begins on page 575, followed by “Family Prayer” on page 585.  The final section gives the “Articles of Religion,” which are still the primary doctrinal formulary for the Anglican Orthodox Church.  The Articles begin on page 601.

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