Prayerbooks: Our Teacher

I’m curious: What is your practice when it comes to the use of set prayers? Do you pray through a psalm or the Psalms? Do you pray with prayer books?

Do you, as Kris and I do, use prayer books like Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime? Which are your favorites if you do use prayer books?

I wrote about the use of prayer books (Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today), and I enjoyed all the discussion of prayer books when I was discussing the book … and I miss that discussion.

Prayer is not only hard for most Christians, it is discouraging to be reminded of the importance of prayer. Sometimes it is a scolding preacher and other times nothing more than the word of someone who seems so good at prayer. A few years ago I became convinced that one of the major reasons prayer is hard is because we rely too much upon ourselves.

Instead of relying upon our own ideas, our own words, and our own energies there is another method. This method is from the Bible and it has been practiced throughout the history of the Church. I call it “sacred prayers and sacred rhythms.” In Praying with the Church I show how God gave to us a prayer book — the Psalms — and God gave us that book so we would learn how to pray by praying the prayers of the Psalms. Then we learn that Jesus prayed this way too — at set times he used set prayers and he expected his followers to do the same. Jesus then added to the prayers of the Bible: he gave to you and me the Lord’s Prayer to teach us how to pray.

Who wants to tell us today about their experience of learning to pray with the Church by using the great prayers of the Bible and the Church?

Here are the words of Jesus for one of these great Bible prayers, the Lord’s Prayer:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When
he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray,
just as John taught his disciples.”

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come. 
3 
Give us each day our daily bread.
4 
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.

Simple words to repeat. Daily.

The early Christians were known to have said the Lord’s Prayer at set hours — three times a day. And the Church has always prayed daily at set times.

If you are discouraged about your praying I suggest you learn about and then practice the gentle habits of sacred prayers and sacred rhythms — saying the great prayers of the Bible and the Church at set times. Discouragement may pass away without your not even knowing it.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://kenthaley.wordpress.com Kent Haley

    I’m going to check out your book. This is something I struggle with constantly. I’ve been using the Book of Common Prayer for the last year or so, and I do find that it has been helpful. It helps to remove the focus from myself and put it back on God, and it also reminds me that I am joining with many in the past and present in praying these prayers. I try to pray every morning, and have been interested in praying at regular times throughout the day. However, it seems like life just happens and by the end of the day, I have hardly prayed at all.

    Any advice on teaching children to pray?

  • http://theparsonspatch.com Mark Stevens

    Your book on prayer was the first of yours I ever read. I loved it, I read it alongside Benson’s book on prayer. However, I’ve never been able to gell with prayer books (even being an Anglican originally). Maybe I need to read your book again and then pick up my shorter morning and evening prayer.

  • Rick in IL

    I use “The Valleyof Vision: a collection of Puritan Prayers”. Very enriching but to pray with the author I have to read slowly.

  • http://theepiscopalian.blogspot.com/ William Birch

    I pray the Daily Office (or the Hours), and have been doing so for nearly three years. The Book of Common Prayer is the primary element which drew me into the Anglican tradition. After praying the office, I then lay out my daily prayers for people in need, and then pray for my needs.

    Often I pray extemporaneously throughout the day. My relationship with God through Christ in the Spirit by means of prayer is both structured and spontaneous, using written prayers during the hours and also from the heart when the need or desire arises.

  • Ryan Beerwinkle

    I have found guidance using “Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings From the Northumbria Community”. The neo-monastic community has the content available for free on there website. http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/pray-the-daily-office

  • Nathan

    The Lindisfarne Community’s Way Of Living….I can’t recommend highly enough.

    I do love the bcp, the little office of the Virgin Mary, Webber’s Pryme and his Daily Prayer…

  • http://dunelm.wordpress.com Ben Blackwell

    When I worked with Tom Wright, I was inducted into the use of Common Worship: Daily Prayer, the modernized version of the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve not seen much access to it over here in the US, but well worth the time invested in scripture and prayer.

  • Nathan

    I can’t believe I almost forgot….

    The Anglican rosary for the daily office morning noon evening night….this is a mainstay regardless of what books I’m using.

    My rosary goes with me everywhere and the 7bead weeks you pray a phrase from the psalms, then the gloria, ending with the our father, so it’s a great prayer bead discipline that doesn’t freak out anyone concerned with Marian content. ;)

  • http://www.crucleveland.com Brian Metzer

    At different seasons in my life, I’ve returned to Ken Boa’s “Face to Face” and prayer has definitely been enriched – order, arrangement, and thoughtfulness remove nearly all of the hurdles except just one: setting aside the time.

  • Paul

    I use the book of common prayer because my community (Anglican) uses it. I find prayer books shared amongst a community can add a communal element to our times of prayer, even if the prayer is solitary.

  • Shane

    As someone who does struggle with prayer I found this post very helpful. Thank you!

  • Jerry

    I normally use the BCP for my prayers. But I have also used Celtic Daily Prayer, Common Worship (CofE), Norm Shawchuck’s Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. I started using prayer books 20+ years ago when I found my regular pattern of prayer too shallow. I highly recommend the online version of the BCP Daily Office at http://www.missionstclare.com.

  • Tim M

    I’ve been using Common Prayer (edited by Shane Claiborne and others) with my wife and with our homegroup. It has been a great way to guide us into more prayer and we really enjoy the ecumenical emphasis.

  • T.S.Gay

    “Take Our Moments and Our Days”….Vol I&II.

  • http://gladstreams.wordpress.com Pat Lynch

    The Book of Common Prayer does not have the influence it once enjoyed, probably because of the user-unfriendliness of the 1979 edition. The Daily Office Lectionary for the 1928 American Prayer Book is “fair,” but it leaves a lot on the table and seems to have some glaring omissions. Eight of the imprecatory psalms are never assigned to be read. Still, it does lead one through a confession of sins, praise of God, scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, the creed, and prayers for the season. There are additional prayers for the church, nation, and all mankind. Morning and Evening Prayer are the prayers of the universal church. The Daily Offices mold good spiritual habits and introduce solid theological ideas. I have written a couple of essays on how to use the Daily Office from the 1928 on my blog. Here is the first on personal devotion and the Daily Offices: http://wp.me/p270xt-8E. The other essay of the two-part set is an introduction on how to use the Daily Office Lectionary: http://wp.me/p270xt-8A. I would like to add that the ’28 is not (in my opinion) appropriate for regular public worship. There are modern language versions of the 1928 BCP Communion service that work nicely and you might also try out the Church of England’s modern language 1662. The principle advantage of the ’28 is that it is readily available. Otherwise, the last traditional American BCP is the 1892, but that is very far afield from our discussion.

  • Pat Cox

    Robert Benson’s Venite has been a mainstay for me for many years. It has allowed me to memorize many beautiful prayers. Any book by Benson including the one on baseball is a quiet meditation on prayer.

  • Adam

    I have also found that The Book of Common Prayer to be formative to my regular prayer life and use it regularly. I used A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck with one of my first mentors when I was in seminary. I have also found The Prymer translated by Robert Webber and Praying with the Orthodox Tradition edited by Kallistos Ware to be beneficial as part of my regular prayer habit.

  • Mark E. Smith

    I have a number of prayer books in my possession. One I use frequently is The Book of Alternative Services of The Anglican Church of Canada.

    I like to use set prayers because it keeps me connected to the historic Church.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    I’m still sort of hashing out how to pray in the first place, but I do like to use the Book of Common Prayer, and the prayers in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    I move through the Psalms in order, every month. I’ve used prayer books and devotionals alongside psalms, and frequently I’ll read a chapter in Proverbs each day, too. However, psalms is my first reading, to which I’ve supplemented the gospels. During the last couple of years, I’ve been slowly meditating & praying through one of the gospels, with Psalms. I’m more aware – after 35-40 years of regularly reading (more daily than not in the past 10 years) – of the shaping of scripture, the way the words and stories speak holistically into our lives. I seek to allow the Holy Spirit through the Word to shape me through prayer, meditation as I move into, act in and interact with the world. Would it not be the best goal, to pray that – some day – others will say of us, as Jim Wallis did of Gordon Cosby, that they could see Jesus’ love & shape manifest in our lives?

  • http://stephencswan.wordpress.com/ Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    The Valley of Vision is great – especially for a Calvinist like me!

    and how about the Psalms? We’ve been trying to work Psalms praying into our congregation for awhile now. Bonhoeffer’s basic logic about the Psalms is especially helpful:
    -my own prayers are not good enough
    -Christ is both Man and God
    -the Psalms are both man’s inspired words and God’s Word
    -therefore the Psalms are Christ’s prayers (both theologically and historically)
    -therefore when I pray the Psalms, I am mouthing along with Jesus in prayer – I am praying with Jesus

    At least, that’s how I interpret Bonhoeffer on the Psalms.

  • John M.

    I begin with a period (extended period if I have time) of silent meditative, centering prayer, where I try to quiet my own thoughts and listen. Either at the beginning or the end of this time I will usually also pray conversationally. Afterward I read a Psalm and the Proverb chapter of the date. Following that I pray several set prayers from the Orthodox Study Bible, including the Lord’s Prayer. Regularly, but not daily I pray the St. Patrick’s Breastplate. As I write his, it sounds rather elaborate, but in practice it feels simple, compact and filled with rich and dense spiritual depth. I can shorten it if necessary by picking and choosing. For me, the core of it all that I try not to compromise, is the period of quiet centering prayer, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.

  • John M.

    I should clarify: This is my morning routine. I do not pray the hours, but I cultivate a mindset of continuous internal communion and conversation with the Lord thought the day. I consider this to be on-going whether I am engaging it consciously or not. Two books that have been valuable for me in cultivating what I describe un the post above and here are, Richard Foster’s “Sanctuary of the Soul,” and David G. Benner’s “Opening to God,” both published by IVP.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    I periodically pray through the Psalms. I have used Divine Hours as well as Celtic Daily Prayer. On occasions I have used the Book of Common Prayer. Have also used the two volumes of prayers by Michael Quoist.

  • http://abbeynous.blogspot.com Andii Bowsher

    I’m still finding myself perplexed that in the face of a Dominical pattern for prayer -ie the Lord’s Prayer or ‘Our Father’- we still keep avoiding using it in a full-orbed sort of way by tucking it away as a set prayer among other set prayers rather than letting it form the patterning of our regular prayers.
    Helping to get over that; some help here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/andii-bowsher/praying-the-pattern/ebook/product-20212977.html
    and also a set of night prayers (‘complines’) using the same principle and incorporating well-loved and traditional prayers as well as new ones.

  • Craig Higgins

    I pray (“read,” as many Anglicans say) the daily office, using the forms of the Book of Common Prayer (1979 American). For the readings, for many years I used For All the Saints, a resource published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. For the last 5-8 years, I’ve used the Daily Office Book, from Church Publishing (Episcopal). Although now, with various Bible, BCP, and lectionary apps on my phone, there’s less need to carry books around.

    By the way, I’m a Presbyterian pastor, and I’m delighted to find more and more in our tradition discovering the daily office. I can’t imagine living without it!

  • http://abbeynous.blogspot.com Andii Bowsher

    Sorry -in the last comment, I should probably have used this web link ahead of the one I did put: http://abbeynous.blogspot.com/2012/04/praying-divine-office.html -it says a bit more about the why.


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