You might say I’m a bit of a prayerbook junkie–a free-church pastor who loves deep liturgy. Also, I should add, an embarrassingly undisciplined person who needs all the help I can get when it comes to the spiritual essentials of daily prayer and Bible-reading.
Just before Thanksgiving I received my pre-ordered copy of a new prayerbook called: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It has been lovingly developed by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.
Shane and Jonathan are both leaders in the contemporary religious movement known as “new monasticism.” (Thus the inclusion of a prayer for celibacy commitment–talk about radical.) Enuma is a professional retreat leader and spiritual writer whose blog I highly recommend. (And whose book, Reluctant Pilgrim, I hope to read and review at some point.)
The prayer book they have created is ecumenical in nature (though the “Prayer for Baby Dedication” reveals the Anabaptist underpinnings); the material in it spans the breadth of time from the biblical world to today. This morning’s prayers contain a quote from Sojourner Truth; tomorrow’s contain a brief reflection on the 4th Century St. Nicholas of Myra. In flipping through the prayers for later in the year, my favorite line so far comes from the prayers for October 12: “In 1942, the indigenous peoples of America discovered Christopher Columbus.”
In terms of structure, the book contains one week’s worth of evening prayer services and one mid-day prayer service. The heart of Common Prayer is the daily services of morning prayer. As a product of new monasticism, the readings for each prayer time are written responsively so that a small gathered community can share in the time together. (Anyone want to come to my house at 6 a.m. every morning?)
At the end of the book you will find “Occasional Prayers” which are beautifully written; these unexpected prayers bring the ancient faith into the modern world in delightful and profound ways. It is a testament to the lives of the compilers that they include a prayer for the “Death of Someone Killed in the Neighborhood” as well as a prayer for “Blessing of the Land or a Garden.”
And finally, there is a songbook at the back full of songs you know–or should know; old hymns, contemporary hymns, spirituals, Taize music.
If you practice morning prayers, this book will make you more eager to get out bed and pray on these cold December mornings. If you don’t practice morning prayers, this might just be the book that gets you started. I highly recommend that you buy it for yourself–maybe as a Christmas present.
In the meantime, the prayers for each day and many of the occasional prayers are available on the web site.
Let me leave you on this Sunday morning with the blessing for this week:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors. Amen