As an Episcopalian, I have relied upon the beautiful prayers of the Book of Common Prayer, originally crafted by a consultation of English bishops, led by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549. At the time of Henry VIII, the Roman liturgies were in Latin. In 1547, when Edward VI became King, Archbishop Cranmer and his colleagues translated the Sarum Rite, and two other sources, and created the first Book of Common Prayer in the language of the people, English. Although there was an extensive revision in 1552, much of the original language remains today, through the revisions of 1662, 1789, 1892 and 1928, now found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). As a child worshipping in the Episcopal Church, even though I could read, my mother told me to memorize the prayers of the liturgy. She knew that how we pray shapes how and what we believe. So mumbling through Sunday worship was how I learned Cranmer’s poetic translations of scripture and ancient sources of worship found in the 1928 BCP. I can still remember the collects and prayers I learned as a child. The 1979 BCP has a whole section of beautiful prayers and thanksgivings written since the first BCP. Keep a BCP at home as a bedside resource. Read them to your children.
Memorizing prayers crafted by others has advantages. At times of anxiety, stress and fear, saying the Lord’s Prayer to myself helped me to focus through labor and delivery, brought me peace during frightening turbulence on an airplane, and calm and trust in the midst of grief and uncertainty. But it is also good to know how to pray spontaneously in your own words, more than just, “O God!”. Begin with addressing God and offering a word of praise and thanksgiving for what God means to you. Then admit to God, and to yourself, something you regret doing or not doing, and offer your intention to refrain from doing or not doing that again. Finally, share your concern for others, or yourself, and ask for guidance. You will notice that nearly all the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer follow that structure, which helps us to remember them.
Another prayer that I learned as a child is the Anima Christi (below), a prayer addressed to Jesus Christ. This well known Catholic prayer dates to the early fourteenth century and its authorship remains uncertain. The prayer takes its name from its first two words in Latin, Anima Christi, which means “the soul of Christ.” The Anima Christi was believed to have been composed by St. Ignatius Loyola, as he put it at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises. The order of the prayer is also a pattern that retells the story of Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection, and has been used by many after receiving communion. I found it comforting as a child when I was alone and scared, or feeling badly for something I had done, or as an adult when I need strength and hope, and have a desire to be at one with Christ. Commit this one to memory, too. Any of the phrases could serve as a mantra for meditation, or a request for deeper faith and relationship with Christ.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Permit me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever. Amen
What a beautiful and constructive Daily Cup. I think many of us have thought of following such a plan in times of stress or even joy. But, as for better or worse, we move into more contemporary wording of the traditional prayers, this is a wonderful way to retain in our lives the beauty of the old, traditional wording of many, very meaningful prayers. Thank you so much Dr. Flett and all of those who spend the extra time doing these Daily Cups.
The words of the liturgies of Morning Prayer and Holy Communion are rooted deep in my memory too from 50 years of hearing, saying and singing them Sunday after Sunday through all the seasons of the church year again and again, and yet I try to listen to the familiar words as I say them because I find that I hear different things each time, different words or phrases stand out, and it is always amazing to me. –Noell S.
Carol: Thanks again for another insightful Daily Cup. My favorite prayer in the Book of Common Prayer is #57 (For Guidance). Otherwise all my prayers begin and end with “Thank You.”
See you this evening at the Theological Book Group.
Thanks for the BCP history lesson. Working on collects during the Theological Reflection (TR) portion of Education for Ministry was one of my favorite parts of each class session. One TR style we practiced was called “Tender Mercies.” We took a prayer out of the BCP and picked a short phrase to focus on. I like the phrases “Calm Strength” and “Patient Wisdom” used in the prayer for Parents. I even enjoy saying a “Hail Mary” when it’s not football season.