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Our Rich Liturgical
Heritage: Prayer Books

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Our Rich Liturgical Heritage

The Right Reverend Dr Peter Brain

They say that you cannot tell a book by its cover. And while that is a healthy reminder not to misjudge another person, it is not true of our Prayer Books.

The covers of the Book of Common Prayer (1662), An Australian Prayer Book (1978) or A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) aptly describe their contents.

Common prayer is an important reminder that these prayers are for public worship, the kind that are applicable when we gather. That does not mean that they cannot be used as personal prayers, but are big picture prayers that concern us and our communities, our nation and our world.

Our liturgies serve many purposes. Two are very clear when it comes to prayer: they offer us the context for 'when two or three are gathered' prayer. Where we 'can agree with each other', an attitude our Lord promised would lead to answered prayer (Matthew 18:19-20).

They also offer us models and reminders of what we ought to be praying. When we use the Litany, for example, I am always challenged to be more outward and wider scoped in my prayers. Individualism and its corporate version, parochialism, rob us of the sheer joy and scope of prayer. When we pray from all evil and mischief, from pride, vanity and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred and malice; and all evil intent good Lord, deliver us and from sloth, worldliness and love of money; from hardness of heart and contempt of your word and your laws good Lord deliver us I am always reminded, that though I am a fully justified adopted child of the living God through faith in Jesus, I am still a work in progress and nowhere near as good or Godly as I am tempted to think I am.

The Litany helps me to think of and pray for a wide range of others; like those who serve as ministers of the gospel, who govern or administer our laws, who use the earth’s resources, who are deceived, sick, or enemies. Listen to these short petitions: Enlighten your ministers with knowledge and understanding, that by their teaching and lives they may proclaim your word. Endue the members of our parliaments and all who govern us with wisdom and understanding. Give us the will to use the resources of the earth to your glory and for the good of all. Heal the sick in body and mind, and provide for the homeless, the hungry and the destitute. Forgive our enemies, persecutors and slanderers and turn their hearts.

Of course, there is a danger in set prayers and they are not necessary to a full and rich prayer life. They can however, be a wonderful aid in helping us to pray more deeply about our real need for growth, and more widely than we may otherwise do. They are a source of great instruction and reminder of the rich blessing we can be to others, known and unknown, through prayer. And as with most service to others we are the most richly blessed.

Published in Messenger, September 2019

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