Prayer books: Prayers for every occasion.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 June

If you’ve ever been to a church wedding (’cause pagans will do their weddings any which way), y’might’ve noticed whenever an actual member of the clergy officiating the ceremony, she or he held a little black book. Usually. Some clergy members have this stuff memorized; they’ve done so many. Others… well, they’re all over the place, same as pagans.

Most people assume this book is a bible. When I was a kid it’s what I assumed too. So I went poking around my bible for the wedding ceremony… and discovered it’s not in there. ’Cause there are no wedding ceremonies in the bible. Wedding parties, sure. But back in bible times, you hashed out the marriage and dowry details between the families, and that done, the bridegroom went and got the bride, took her home, and they were considered married. No ceremony. Didn’t need one.

I know; some of you are gonna say, “But there was a Jewish wedding ceremony; I saw a video.” Yes you did, and yes that’s a Jewish wedding ceremony. It dates from medeival times, not bible times. It’s got some customs which are uniquely Jewish, but medieval Jews simply copied the Christian wedding ceremony and Judaized it—just like when Christians swipe Jewish rituals and Christianize them. If you notice any parallels between the medieval Jewish ceremony and the second coming, it’s because we Christians put them there in our medieval ceremonies… and took ’em out in our modern ones.

But I digress. The western marriage ceremony ultimately originates with western pagans, not Jews. We Christianized it a bunch. So of course it’s not in the bible. So where do clergy members get the order and words of the wedding ceremony?—what’s this little black book then? Usually a prayer book.

Different denominations have official prayer books. Some don’t; mine doesn’t. So when it comes to baby dedications, baptisms, wedding ceremonies, funerals, and other rituals a pastor’s gonna be less familiar with, they get ahold of Minister’s Manuals, which tell ministers what to do and say and pray. Some are published by one’s denomination; the rest are nondenominational things which a denomination might officially recommend, but any Christian can buy and use ’em. You can find a copy on Amazon.

Back in college I picked up a Book of Common Prayer at a bookstore; that’d be the Episcopal Church’s prayer book, which is an American version of the Church of England’s prayer book. Most of the rote prayers I’d heard all my life are in there. A few weren’t; I’ve since found them in other prayer books. Some worship songs I knew, which had old-timey lyrics, or verses of the psalms which didn’t quite line up with the King James Version: Apparently they were extracted from the BCP’s prayers. Hey, if your music needs lyrics, why not?

The less formal a church, the less likely they’re gonna tap the prayer books. I grew up in churches where we didn’t even read the call-and-response prayers in our hymnals. So I’ve met many a Christian who’s totally unfamiliar with these books, and eye them with a little bit of suspicion: “What’re you trying to slip past me?” I wish they’d likewise apply some of that suspicion to the stuff their churches show ’em on the PowerPoint slides, but that’s another discussion.

For those of you who are familiar with them, or who wanna take a look at them, I’m gonna hook you up with a few. You don’t have to be clergy to read them. They’ll provide you some useful ideas which you can add to your prayer life.

The Book of Common Prayer.

The prayer book most Americans are familiar with (whether they realize it or not) is the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer.

They’re all based on the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, which actually hasn’t been updated since 1662. Not that they haven’t tried to update it repeatedly, but Parliament doesn’t wanna. As a result, English churches tend to use Common Worship, a prayer book in more up-to-date English.

Anglican-affiliated churches all over the world have their local versions of the Book of Common Prayer, and if you’re more familiar with them, here y’go.

Orthodox prayer books.

Each Orthodox church is free to choose their own prayer books, or come up with one on their own. So they do.

Other churches.

Lest you think the only folks cranking out prayer books are Anglicans and Orthodox.

If you find any other prayer books online, let me know and I’ll add ’em to the list.