At a recent used book sale one of the first things I found was a small Book of Common Prayer. I’ve always loved reading prayers from this book and had browsed online for a copy, but was so confused about the many versions that I gave up the search. When I saw this little book I knew it was mine, especially after I saw the inscription on the fly-leaf dated 1943! I quickly checked and, yes, it was a copy of the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer that was published in 1935 by the Protestant Episcopal Church; just what I wanted. I had to wonder about the giver and receiver of this book and what it meant to each of them, as well as how it ended up at the PTA used book sale; I’ll never know.
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of prayers and liturgy assembled for used in Anglican worship. The first version of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549 as a result of the Protestant Reformation with a second version following in 1552. It was banned during the time of the Puritans control of England. The fourth version would be issued in 1662 and is still the official version used by the Church of England. Today the Episcopal Church uses a version approved in 1979. (If you would like to see a timeline click here)
While the “thees” and “thous” may be a little too heavy for some readers, the prayers and liturgy are very poetic and graceful. Reading them slowly and thinking about the content is very peaceful, much like slowly reading a Bible passage and absorbing the message. Many of the prayers are based on Psalms incorporating familiar passages. There are prayers for just about every life circumstance, birth, death, marriage, sickness, thanksgiving, Advent, Lent and Easter. There’s liturgy for every event in the church from confirmation to ordaining a Bishop!
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who hath taught us to pray unto thee.
(from the Book of Common Prayer, 1935)