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Hallo again to all.

We have encountered people from less liturgical flavours of Christianity who, after attending an Anglican service for the first time, are of the opinion that Anglicans don't know how to pray properly. They'll say things like, 'You pray from a book. In my church, we pray from the heart.' Whenever we encounter this kind of remark, we are saddened by the seemingly judgemental tone with which it is often uttered. But we have learned not to counter with our own pronouncements on the non-Anglican services to which our liturgies are being compared. We suppose these moments could be good opportunities for evangelising, but we don't feel the need to increase the size of the Anglican Communion by purposeful poaching of members from other Christian churches. Often, though, we invite the speaker to accompany us to another service with the hope that we can act as a guide to the order of worship.

For us, the liturgies found in our Book of Common Prayer, no matter which specific variant of the beloved volume is used in your province, provide a framework and gateway to communal prayer that stands out in relation to the services we have attended in non-liturgical churches. There is great comfort knowing that the prayers and readings we use in our local church are also being used in services around our province and beyond. Our liturgies allow us to tap into a great river of prayer with those who have prayed these same words before we were born and those who will pray them after our time on earth is finished.

Perhaps it is that sense of timelessness. Perhaps it is the beautiful poetry in our prayer book providing us with an open doorway to meditative prayer. Perhaps it is the sense of community we feel no matter where we attend an Anglican service. Perhaps it is the standard form of the order of service that allows us to go deeper, to listen more intently for the Holy Spirit. And isn't that the point of prayer?

We had a new experience recently. We were asked to write a prayer of thanksgiving for inclusion in an upcoming printed collection. We were honoured to be asked and agreed. Then came the difficult part: writing down words that conveyed a sense of how and what we pray. Why was the act of writing a prayer so arduous? Our respect for the authors of the prayers found in our Book of Common Prayer grew immensely as we struggled.

We had an epiphany (with a lower-case 'e'). Our private prayer life is usually a wordless accompaniment to the prayers we read in our Book of Common Prayer or a silent meditation on a passage from the Bible. We also regularly pray through making music — singing or playing hymns, psalms, anthems, and voluntaries. Prayer can be inspired by the space in which we worship. Something mystical happens when sitting in a quiet church with sunlight coming through a window, stained glass or otherwise, that draws one into deeper meditation. And then there is the wordless awe of the Creator we feel when we really look at the world around us: an ant climbing on a blade of grass, a child's first steps, a squall line coming through, the Milky Way in a dark starlit sky during a new moon.

Fortunately, we had a few days to work on our contribution to the publication. We persevered. We overcame the burden of writing in the first person singular. We reminded ourselves that the psalms we read and sing written in the first person feel corporate to us, so perhaps our prayer could be read that way as well. And we were able to find words to convey our prayer of thanksgiving. We gained a greater respect for those who need to create written prayers on a regular basis. But we were happy to return to our traditional Anglican ways of quiet prayer.

Thank the Good Lord for the gift of the Book of Common Prayer!

If you have a favourite prayer, please write and tell us about it. We'll share your thoughts in our letters section.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

10 May 2015


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