There are two English language books that stand as preeminent – that tower over the most beloved writings of even our most talented playwrights and poets. They are the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
If the Bible stands unparalleled in its insight into God, the Book of Common Prayer stands unequaled in its insight into how we might worship God. After all, the Prayer Book can be thought of as the Bible rearranged for worship.
Since Whitsunday of 1549 the Book of Common Prayer has drawn untold believers into deeper relationship with the Almighty, shaping our souls, sculpting our liturgy, and encouraging us to engage in that ongoing and sacred conversation that we all know as prayer. Its Collects and liturgies are rich with words, phrases, and images from some of the most beloved Bible passages. Its order and simplicity open our hearts to the grandeur and wonder of God in unparalleled fashion.
However the Book of Common Prayer rather unfortunately, remains one of the Episcopal Church’s best-kept secrets. Just this week while officiating at a funeral a young man (who was not very fond of the Episcopal Church) refused to read the petitions from the Prayer Book’s Burial Office because he said they were not Scriptural. I resisted the urge to explain (and box his ears) and instead wondered how I might go about sharing The Prayer Book with the many people I know who are sincere in their love of God and whose spiritual journeys might find nourishment from this inspired book.
After all, one need not be an Episcopalian to use the Prayer Book. It was God’s gift to us, and has become our gift to the world. As Christmas approaches, who do we have on our Christmas list who might benefit from a Book of Common Prayer? How might we share Christ by sharing the Prayer Book?
As an aside, there’s a new website up that’s designed to briefly outline the Episcopal faith for newcomers and inquirers. Feel free to visit, set up a link on your parish website, or pass it along. It’s at www.jesuswasanepiscopalian.org