Prayer is a participation in the priestly ministry of Christ and is not a consequence of some external rule but springs from the very nature of our vocation as Christians. It is not the preserve of the clergy but is a vocation common to clergy and laity alike. This is a Biblical teaching which the Reformers understood well: it underlies Cranmer’s insistence that the daily work of prayer be taken out of the monastery and placed in the parish church.
Its daily character also underscores this high view of the priesthood of all believers. Time itself is ordered, sanctified and offered through Christ to the Father. Hooker had this to say:
“Now as nature bringeth forth time with motion, so we by motion have learned how to divide time, and by the smaller parts of time both to measure the greater and to know how long all things else endure.” (Laws, V, lxix.2)The whole Prayer Book is designed to enable the laity to fulfil their priestly vocation of prayer: the responses are to be returned by the people and not by the choir only; the prayers are generally short and contain one thought; they are in a language that all can understand; the laity are exhorted to receive their communion; the rubrics demand audibility and visible ceremonial…
The offices of the Prayer Book proceed from the belief that baptism issues in a vocation to pray in two ways. As a member of the Church, the body of Christ, we are to pray the prayers of the whole Church, publicly if possible, otherwise privately.
We are not members of the Body only at “The Gathering of the Community”. As an individual Christians, we should also have a domestic prayer life, which pertains to the particular needs and circumstances of our life as individuals and, if we have one, as part of a family. No amount of extemporary petition, barked from the back of the Church on Sundays can substitute for this. The distinction between public and private is a problem for the modern world generally. The Prayer Book tradition can help us recover the distinction.
The Prayer Book as a system of spiritual discipline is invaluable in helping us to grow to maturity in Christ. It continually reminds us that the good of the Kingdom of Heaven lies not in the devices and desires of our own hearts but in living in and by the Word of God. And it helps us to grow in community in the Body of Christ by enabling us to pray and adore in the Gospel in common.
Charles Simeon wrote that “The finest sight short of heaven would be a whole congregation using the prayers of the liturgy in the true spirit of them.” The recovery of that spirit has never been needed more than today, and yet if conferences like these are any indication, we have reason to hope that the golden age of Anglican spirituality lies not in the past but in, God willing, His the future.
Read it all here.