Namely the prayer books of certain denominations.
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, or watched a wedding on television, y’might’ve noticed when it was an actual member of the clergy officiating the ceremony, she or he was holding a little black book. Assuming the minister wasn’t winging it, or hadn’t downloaded a little something from the internet… or hadn’t, more impressively, committed the ceremony to memory.
Most people assume the book is a bible. When I was a kid, that’s what I assumed too. So I went poking around for the wedding ceremony… and discovered it’s not in there. There are no wedding ceremonies in the bible. Wedding parties, sure; but 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 necessary. The western marriage ceremony is a pagan invention, which we Christianized, so of course it’s not in the bible.
So 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, we have Minister’s Manuals. It tells ’em what to do and say and pray. Basically it is an official prayer book, ’cause it’s published, and officially recommended by, the denomination. But only pastors (and anybody else who can find a copy on Amazon) get to peek at it.
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 were 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 these 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. (Or, for that matter, the bible.) 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.
- The Canadian (1985) edition, Book of Alternative Services.
- The Irish (2004) edition.
- The Church of South India’s (2004) edition, Book of Common Worship. [
- The Scottish (1929) edition. [
- The Welsh (1935) edition, Churchpeople’s Prayer Book. [
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.
- The Eastern Orthodox Prayer Book, [
- The Jordanville Prayer Book, produced by Fr. Lazarus Moore, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., 1986.
- A prayer book by the attendants of Fr. Spyridon of New Skete, Mt. Athos, Greece, 2003.
- Orthodox Prayerbook, [
- Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, [Google Books] by Isabel Florence Hapgood, 1922.
Lest you think the only folks cranking out prayer books are Anglicans and Orthodox.
- Presbyterian Church USA: The Book of Common Worship, [
- Roman Catholics: The Roman Missal, [
- Servants of Messiah Ministries: Messianic Israel Daily and Shabbat Siddur, [
HWHinstead of ha-Shem or Adonái, which’ll freak out the traditionalists.
- United Methodist Church: Book of Worship, 1992.
If you find any other prayer books online, let me know and I’ll add ’em to the list.