Our Anglican Common Prayer Heritage

By the Rev. Dr. Ranall Ingalls

The pattern of prayer that is the common inheritance of the whole Body of Christ has three main parts: personal prayer, the daily office, and the Eucharist (Martin Thornton, English Spirituality). The daily office is in a certain way at the centre, because at its centre is the recitation of the Psalter with the end in view of entering into the prayer of Jesus Himself, who offered these psalms to the Father in the Spirit in his earthly life, and does so forever in his humanity. One side of the daily office is personal prayer, without which the office becomes lifeless parroting. At the same time the office provides a backbone continually to recall us from our whims and distractions to the really important things – the heart and mind of Christ opened to us in Jesus, through the Scriptures; the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement. On the other side of the daily office is the Eucharist, providing a kind of crown and completion of all the other forms of prayer.

Through the centuries, this pattern has varied enormously in the details, but the basic parts have remained. The Anglican contribution here is to open this pattern of prayer to the whole body of Christ – to make it common prayer, that is, shared, public – the property of the whole Body, not just the clergy or monks and nuns. This whole deeply scriptural pattern, which runs like a golden cable through the whole history of the Christian Church (and some of it, like the psalms, through a much longer history) is now opened to everyone. Some will participate in it more fully, many less fully. But whether it is a simple ‘Lord’s Prayer’ said daily or the whole of Morning and Evening Prayer with the Eucharist and Compline, it is something much more than an individual’s prayer or even the Rector’s prayer. It is our prayer – the prayer of the whole Body of Christ – and so also Christ’s prayer in us by the Spirit.

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