Recently, I’ve received plenty of texts or emails asking me about why I use the Book of Common Prayer in sermons, in meetings, and will occasionally post a quote out of it on social media. So I thought I’d give a brief reply here. The history of the BCP can be found here. I love it for numerous reasons.
I Am Not A Trail Blazer
I love the BCP because it reminds me that I’m not a trail blazer. Rather than attempt to embark on a strictly private spiritual journey with God, going who knows where, I want to be apart of a community that has both depth and breadth. (This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the mystical aspects of our faith) – I just find that in the BCP (Book of Common Prayer), I am instantly connected to a larger, global community scattered all over the world. From remote impoverished villages in Africa to cathedrals throughout Europe, saints all over the globe are praying the same prayers and thus, I get the privilege of holding hands with them, reading and praying the same prayers as my brothers and sisters of so many races, nations, and ethnicities. It is beautiful.
It’s Not ALL About Me
My ego is massive. Ugh. It stinks to even have to say it, but it’s true. As much as you and I are turned off by self righteousness, I have to admit I’m self-righteous and self-centered. You don’t have to know me well to know this. Just a simple, honest inventory of how I pray reveals this. You see, when I pray, I usually approach it as a one-way street. God is there to listen to me talk about me, think about me, ask for a few things for me, and so on. In our hyper-individualistic culture that we live in today, where we post statuses about what we’re eating, where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing, we are tempted to think life is all about being “liked” or “retweeted.” Maybe I’m the only one feeling this way but I bet I’m not. I want physical community. Not just electronic community. In turn, this affects my prayer life or lack thereof. The Book of Common Prayer is just that “Common Prayer.” It’s not about me. Life isn’t about me. The Church isn’t about me. The faith isn’t just about me. I get to be apart of the Church and that’s one more thing I’m gaining from this masterful book.
Depth and Breadth
I love the depth reflected in the prayers as well. Time and time again, I find myself reflecting on the robust theology that is compacted into just a few sentences at a time. The deep, but poetically nuanced theology gives me an onramp to incredible worship, though in my experience there is nothing “common” about it. More than that, Personally, I’m too scattered. I’m doing so many things all the time, just like you. I’m a husband, a daddy of 2, a pastor of a church that’s in 5 locations, a podcast host, an author, a director of the Acts 29 West Academy, and a doctoral student. When I sit down to pray, I honestly don’t know where to go or what to say almost 100% of the time. Most people are busy just like me. My wife is a stay at home mother of our 3 and 4 year old kids and she’s just as busy as I am and sometimes more busy than me (all the moms said “Amen!”).
Life can be overwhelming. So, when I sit down to just be with God, because my life is one in which I preach, I teach, I write, and so forth, it is imperative that I stop running my mouth so that, in his infinite mercy, God may open his and speak to me. The prayers written are short but powerful. They say what I’m trying to say or want to say, or need to say. Maybe I don’t have the gift of praying in tongues? I’ve asked for it several times but to no avail. Therefore, I just use the BCP and it’s working out fine. The BCP ties me to a tradition, a history, and a community that is much larger than myself. Rather than blaze my own path, I’ll just walk the path that millions of others have traveled. I don’t want to be a hero. I just want to be in the community. Creativity is exhausting. I don’t want to be the head of the Church or even my own spirituality. Heck, nobody nominated me anyway! I just want to be part of the body, the local church—I love Her.
For All Occasions
I’m certainly not arguing to replace your Bible reading with the BCP (though a lot of the Bible is in there!) The BCP is supplemental to Bible reading, definitely not a replacement. Open your Bible, read through it and respond in prayer (both saying things to God and listening in stillness before him). I often need a jumpstart to time with the Lord and so I’ll go to the back of the BCP and simply thumb through some of these prayers and pray about things that I typically wouldn’t because I just don’t remember to (for example, there’s prayers for cities, rural areas, education, and farmers). These aren’t small things to pray for! We enjoy the benefits of them everyday! If you look in the back (p. 810) of the BCP, you’ll find different prayers for all occasions (even birthdays which we find to be very special around our house)!
It Will Outlast Me
Finally, it will outlast me. It was here long before I got here and will be here long after I’m gone. I love that my children and grandchildren will, by God’s grace be able to reach back in the past and pray prayers that I prayed. I love that we will share the communion of the saints in this way. Maybe you have a grandparent that had a favorite verse or prayer, and every time you read it or pray it, you’re reminded of them, their legacy and their faith in Jesus. My grandfather, Fredrick McCormick was a pastor at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. His favorite Psalm was Ps. 42:1 – “As the deer panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” I can not read that verse or pray it without gratitude for my grandfather. I love that the BCP will outlast me and yet serve as one more instrument the Holy Spirit will use to unite our family under Jesus’ name to the glory of God.