Friday, April 28, 2006

Using Two Prayer Books

I trust it’s okay to let those of you who read these postings that I regularly use a prayerbook. I say this because Mason recently remarked that he too uses one to help him deepen and extend his prayer life. Like Mason, over lots of years, I've discovered that if left to my own inclinations and resources, my prayer life tends to drift into extended times when I simply don't pray. Sometimes I've found that I excuse and comfort myself with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is crying "Abba, Abba!" (Romans 8) when I can't or don't want to pray. Of course, I'm grateful for the groaning of the Spirit in my times of distress. But I also know that with the Spirit I need to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. When left to my own inclinations and resources, my prayer life, in spite of best intentions, often winds up being narrowly focused; more than I want to acknowledge, I abbreviate my thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and confessions, and whatever Scripture readings accompany my intended prayer time. Sporadic and short—those two adjectives seem appropriate descriptions of the way things go for me before God when I don’t use a prayerbook for guidance. And here by prayerbook I don’t mean anything like those little sixty-page pamphlets that various denomination publish quarterly; those simply don’t have enough substance to fill my need for extended reflection nor strike up enough fire to lit “the incense of my evening prayer.” Brevity is not always the soul of wit.

So I use a prayerbook and have done so for a number of decades. Over the years I've worn out two or three with broken bindings and yellowed pages. In the past week I’ve been using two of them. In the evening I use The Book of Common Prayer (BCP), an economy edition I once got for $15, as I get ready for the day ; in the morning after I get up, I’m using The Daily Prayer of Church (DPC), recently published by Lutheran University Press. Each prayerbook provides me with a structure upon and around which I can spend reasonably ample time in prayer, extends my concerns before God, and allows me to read a substantial portion of Scripture each day.

Both BCP and DPC make use of the ancient prayer traditions of the church; they both
  • encourage extended use of the psalms, antiphons, canticles, and responsories
  • keep us aware of all those for whom we ought to pray with collects and litanies
  • urge us to pause now and again for quiet reflection on what we’ve read and for whom and what we're praying
  • help us remember with gratitude the best history of the Church, especially our honored mothers and fathers in the faith
  • and move us in orderly fashion though the Church’s year so that we avoid any preoccupation with some idiocentric theological preference for one biblical teaching over another.

In other words, using a good prayerbook makes sure that the spiritual roots of our lives are deep and extended. That’s the spiritual logic of a good prayerbook.

More than anything, I’ve found that prayerbooks like the BCP or the DPC (and others that honor the traditional—and often Benedictine--sense of time and prayer) keep us profoundly doxological; that is, these good prayerbooks prompt us to continual worship and praise. For all those Christians who spent so much of their time developing the prayer traditions of the Church, I’m grateful. I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. And to the churchmen and churchwomen who have edited and published these prayerbooks, we all will want to say "Thank you!" As I reflect upon these gifts to the Church, I’ll try to mention them in postings to come. Perhaps if you're not already using a good prayerbook, you might wish to investigate the possibilities.


Blogger Carl Heinlein said...


Thanks for sharing!! I can see why people use prayerbooks. People who use them are able to focus in their busy lives. I do not personally use one. However, I believe that for me personally I am doing (in a sense) the same thing you are with the toons. I have to do lots of research on them and sometimes I even have to go back and look at them for devotion time because I would need the same encouragement that they are designed to give everyone else. The research involved seems to make me focus more on God and I can't help but praise Him over and over again. Again thanks for sharing. I agree with you whole-heartedly on this one. I hope that you're enjoying your time on your trip.

God Bless You. Be Safe.


Saturday, 29 April, 2006  

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