Monday, August 27, 2012

The Book of Common Prayer and Quotation of the Week

Book of Common Prayer 2011
As our family begins our sixteenth year of home education, it is entirely necessary to bathe our plans, our children, myself, and our entire school year in prayer.

In the Book of Common Prayer 2011 which I helped to edit, a prayer "For Christians in Their Daily Life" seems extremely appropriate:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, whose glory is made known in your creation in heaven and on earth; In our vocations, may we not be distracted by that which is passing away, but may we do the work that you have given us to do in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness; So that, in our daily life, we might serve you in singleness of heart and for the benefit of others; For the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  
 This prayer reminds me of the teachings on the Tyranny of the Urgent which I first learned from Sue Edwards, the wife of our former pastor. So often we allow the things that seem urgent, but really are not, to gobble up the time that we could spend on eternal activities: encouraging a friend in crisis, having an earnest, one-on-one talk with one of our children, sharing Christ through word and/or deed, teaching God's Word to our children. But so often the telephone or e-mail or Facebook (not that we can't minister through Facebook, but we must be careful not to allow the fun but eternally worthless parts to swallow up the encouraging of and praying for friends and family which is the true value of social media for Christians) or other seemingly "urgent" activities tend to distract us from the work God has given us to do...which is so beautifully expressed in the above prayer.

So prayer needs to be our first and main ingredient in our home school. Since Day 1 of this home education adventure sixteen years ago, we start our day gathered together. I'm sitting either at the school table or on the hearth, and the kids are stretched out in the recliners, on the sofa, or on the floor as we start our family devotions. These devotions have changed over the years, but over the past five or more years, the Book of Common Prayer has been the centerpiece of our family time in God's Word.

Some evangelicals take issue with the Book of Common Prayer, our present evangelical pastor included. But for me, I find the repetition of God's Word soothing as each day it nestles more firmly into my mind, heart, and soul. The services of Morning Prayer and Family Prayers for Morning, especially in the new Book of Common Prayer 2011, is simply Scripture laid out to pray. We also follow the Lectionary which is an annual plan of Scripture reading laid out for Morning and Evening Prayer; the Old Testament is read through once and the New Testament twice each year.

In addition, the Psalter (Book of Psalms) is laid out in its entirety; in the BCP 2011, the English Standard Version (ESV) translation is used. A new translation (2001), it reads easily yet is accurate; the ESV is the translation of choice at both our EV Free Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church I attend on Friday mornings. So the 150 Psalms are laid out in sixty readings: 30 for Morning Prayer and thirty for Evening Prayer, and are arranged to be read/prayed each day of the month: Day 1 Morning Prayer, Day 1 Evening Prayer, Day 2 Morning Prayer, etc. Thus the entire Book of Psalms is read/prayed every month, in addition to the Lectionary readings which contain an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a Psalm or two, morning and evening, for each day of the year. If we are reading the Psalter as part of Morning and Evening Prayer, then we don't have to read the Psalm readings listed in the Lectionary.

We are warned against "vain repetition" in the Scriptures; for me, the key word here is "vain," as in useless, meaningless. But we are indeed called upon to repeat God's Word meaningfully; how else can we inscribe God's Word onto our hearts and minds? For me (and obviously not for everyone), God's Word is indeed inscribed in my heart and mind through the Book of Common Prayer. In our family devotions, we follow our time in the BCP with each of us taking time to pray aloud for the new day, asking for help and healing for those we know and love and asking for help to accomplish God's plan for us this day. So we aren't merely relying on the BCP for prayers; we also pray extemporaneously as part of our family devotions.

My quotation for this week is from a saint of the early church, and I've found it an excellent reminder of the value of prayer, not just to us but also to God:

"God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness."
~Saint Gregory of Nazianzen (329-390)  
I need this reminder that I'm not "bothering God" with my requests, but that He delights in my prayers to Him. I've always struggled with prayer lists and praying for myself and others because it always feels as if I'm bringing God a grocery list of demands rather than worshiping Him for Who He is. That's where the Book of Common Prayer helps me. After confessing our sins (which begins every service in the BCP), bathing ourselves in God's Word, and celebrating His majesty and sacrificial love for us, I feel that I can then bring my requests to Him in a right frame of mind. I'm not just praying to "get stuff" from God; I am confessing my sin, worshiping Him, and dwelling in His Word first, and then, filled with His Spirit, I can reveal the needs and desires of my heart more fully and completely.

So as we begin this sixteenth year of home education, I pray that God's glory will surround us as He assists each of us to become the people of His Heart, people who love and serve others in His Name, people who lead worshipful lives focused on Him, people who glorify Him and lead others into His eternal Kingdom.

May we indeed glorify God in all we think, speak, and do, this day, this year, and always.

Soli Deo Gloria, (to God alone be the glory)

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin