I've been getting lots of questions about the prayer books and resources I talk about in my new book.
Walking with Henry tells about how I found myself at a point in which I felt unable to pray. I was frustrated by my distractedness, my inability to get past, "Dear Lord please help me" prayers, and a feeling of anxiety over doing it "wrong."
A friend suggested using the Book of Common Prayer. As an evangelical who is at home in non-denominational settings, this was completely new to me, even though it is a collection of prayers and scripture readings that has been used by other branches of the church for literally HUNDREDS of years. Some of the prayers go back to the first few hundred years of Christianity.
How was it that I'd never heard about it?
Now, I'd been warned against "rote" prayers, and anything that smacked of "vain repetitions," but at this point I was feeling desperate for something that could help my prayer life. It was explained to me that written prayers like these were nothing to be afraid of. In fact, by following along with the order set out for morning and evening prayers, I'd be praying right along with millions of other Christians around the world...and would be joining in with the prayers of the "saints gone before." I could simply step into the stream of prayers that was already flowing, and let them carry me. It's a wonderful thought, isn't it?
I purchased a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and found the prayers inside beautiful....aaaaand the order of services and prayers quite confusing and difficult to follow. It takes some time to become familiar with how it is set up: for example Rite 1 prayers use "thee's and thou's" and Rite 2 prayers are the same ones except with modern language. The Psalms are included in the book, as well as prayers for specific things like baptisms, funerals, the nation, thanksgivings, etc. There is a lot of page-flipping involved.
But, filled with solid theology and well-crafted words, the prayers in the book became a comfort for my soul. I could rest on each line, let the words sink in, and simply breathe them to the Lord.
I needed this, oh how I needed this.
Perhaps you're looking for a little booster shot in your prayer life, too. Maybe you're "out of words," just like I was. Or maybe you've been so preoccupied with the idea of spiritual warfare that you don't know what it's like to simply meet with God in quiet prayer. I think we've been so conditioned to think of prayer as something we "must do," and that our prayers must be "powerful" and we should "expect great things" or we're doing it wrong....whew. Perhaps there is truth in all that, but to be honest, it sometimes makes me feel tired and anxious.
Maybe it's time we stopped trying to fight the devil at every turn, and simply open our hearts in new (or tried and true) ways to the living, sweet Spirit of God who longs for us to draw close to Him.
Maybe we can rest in the Prayers and give our spiritual lives a chance to grow without having to work at it so hard.
I discovered that there are online apps for the Book of Common Prayer and "The Daily Office" (the daily prayers), and these have been hugely helpful in making the prayers accessible and understandable...no page-flipping involved.
Here are a few books that have helped me as well:
Ancient Prayers for Anxious Christians
by Ed Cyzewski
This is hands down the best book I've read on prayer in a long, long time. I've underlined and highlighted nearly every sentence.
A Diary of Private Prayer, by John Baillie
A 30 day collection of morning and evening prayers that are absolutely wonderful.
A lovely collection of prayers for every occasion, great for family prayer.
There are three volumes (Spring, Summer, Autumn/Winter), plus other volumes for Christmas and Easter. I love that the author includes hymns and poems with the readings. It follows the Church calendar and includes morning and evening prayers, along with midday and compline (night) prayers.
There is an online version of the Divine Hours here, which has the morning and evening prayers.
Praying written prayers shouldn't take the place of prayers that you "make up" on your own. For me, they have inspired me to live in a state of prayerfulness, the new vocabulary of prayer entering my own prayers in beautiful and unexpected ways. In my personal experience, I was ready to move beyond my "Lord I just wanna ask you for" type prayers, and these resources have been invaluable in helping me learn how to do it.
After a few years of praying this way, I have created my own "daily liturgy" from the prayers and creeds, and I can say that all of this has transformed my spiritual life.
There are many more books and resources listed in the back of Walking with Henry.
You can learn more about my own journey into new prayer practices in the book, and I think you'll be inspired to rethink some of your own ways of approaching prayer. In Walking With Henry I've included a listing of the prayers and creeds I use in my personal daily liturgy, with a private link to where you can find them written out for you on my website rachelanneridge.com.
How about you?
What are your thoughts about written prayers?
Are you curious about beginning a new kind of prayer practice?
What questions do you have about doing something like this?
Would this be a prayer practice you would like to do together?