It has taken the Church of England a long time to publish a “definitive” daily prayer book, but it is available at last! Having used it for the few weeks since it was published my first impression is entirely positive. It fulfils its purpose in helping to make the daily office far more rewarding and enjoyable.
Settling down before a cross and perhaps a candle, simply taking up this magnificent book becomes a part of your twice daily ritual. The text is beautifully printed on ivory paper with clear “Gill Sans” typeset and rubrics. There is a hardback or leather bound version; both look likely to last.
Unlike the much used Franciscan “Celebrating Common Prayer” learning how to navigate this prayer book can be mastered in minutes and used immediately. After a couple of weeks of using the basic format of Morning and Evening Prayer, one can start to use the rest of the six marker ribbons! Those who want to use the book just once each day can use the “Prayer during the Day” section which has short readings included. One could also then use the “Order for Night Prayer” (Compline). To follow the full office you need a current lectionary.
There are many pages of forms of intercession and then prayers from many traditions and even other faiths. Over time there is much to discover and value in this section. There are an extraordinary 87 canticles to be used for every time and season. The psalms are, of course, superbly and clearly set out for group worship. After each Old Testament psalm there is a thoughtful prayer with a New Testament dimension.
Church House describe this prayer book as ‘the eagerly awaited definitive edition’ and I agree. I am sure that many fellow clergy and many who have no formal commitment to the daily office will have the lives of prayer greatly enhanced by it.
There are critics of the Church of England’s new “Common Worship”. I have strong reservations about the language of some of it; the Baptism service is simply incomprehensible to those who have no lifelong experience of Anglican liturgy. Jean Mayland (who used to be on the Liturgical Commission) says to the church she loves:
“for God’s sake grow out of Common Worship as soon as you can. Find new, inclusive, poetic language and symbolism from our own age to describe and worship God and meet the needs of the millions of this nation”.
I think the new Daily Prayer provides a firm foundation from which personal prayer can flow. I think it is suitable for our present generation who need to root their faith in the ancient tradition of the psalms and their understanding of God in the accounts of events of salvation history. The Book of Common Prayer, the 1662, is a product of its time. From 2005 I will be happy to set my prayer within the framework of this “definitive” and enriching prayer book.