As I’ve been thinking about worship, liturgy and youth ministry (see here and here) I’ve also been reflecting on my own practice of prayer. As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I decided to seriously expand the practice of prayer in my own life. As we were talking with students about Christian practices it just seemed right that I ought to continue to develop those practices in my own life.
I had experimented with fixed-hour prayer in the past. I’d primarily used Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours, though I’ve also used the morning and evening prayer rites from the BCP. At the beginning of the summer I added compline to my normal prayer routine, and by midsummer I decided to expand to morning and evening prayer. As I was looking for a simple, helpful, manageable prayer book I stumbled upon Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro.
As it turns out, Common Prayer is pretty much all the things I was looking for in a prayer book. I’ve found many of the side-bars personally challenge, which is nice, but the primary reason I find the book so helpful is that it sets out to be a simple prayer book that can be used either individually or corporately. I’ve been using Common Prayer for several weeks as my primary prayer book. To be honest, at times I find it challenging to force myself to take a chunk of time and pray. It’s one of the reasons I’ve found fixed-hour prayer a helpful practice. As I’ve recited the prayers in this book there has not been a time when I haven’t come away refreshed–lest I give the wrong impression, this is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit, not Shane or the other authors, nevertheless that means this book is doing what it’s supposed to: helping me connect with God and then getting out of the way.
Common Prayer is split into several sections. The first is a lengthy introduction to the book, liturgy and the practice of fixed-hour prayer. The introduction is well written and helpful to those who have never attempted the practice of fixed-hour prayer before as well as those who have found it to be an important part of their spiritual lives. Next is a section of seven evening prayers, one for each night of the week. That means that each Sunday one recites the same prayer, each Monday the same prayer, etc. I find this immensely helpful since it establishes a weekly rhythm in my prayer life. Next is a section of morning prayers, one for each day of the year with a small section devoted specifically to Holy Week (which will fall on various calendar weeks). Following this there is a single Noon time prayer, to be said each day. I’ve personally found noon prayers to be the most difficult of the commonly practiced hours to establish in my own life, but I haven’t given up hope. The book concludes with a brief selection of prayers for various occasions and a songbook.
If you have never tried developing a practice of fixed-hour prayer, I highly recommend Common Prayer as a place to start. If you are familiar with fixed-hour prayer and find the practice helpful, I highly recommend this book. I’ve actually begun using selections from the evening prayers during our Wednesday evening worship time with students. So far, they have been quite helpful.