Book of Common Prayer

prayer book used in most Anglican churches

The Book of Common Prayer is the prayer book of the Church of England and also the name for similar books used in other churches in the Anglican Communion. It contains the order to be followed in church services.

Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

General edit

  • It hath been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her Publick Liturgy, to keep the mean between the two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and of too much easiness in admitting any variation from it.
  • There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted
  • Give peace in our time, O Lord.
    • Mattins and Evensong, Versicles
  • Grant that the old Adam in the Child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him.
    • Public Baptism of Infants, Blessing on the Child
  • Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord,
    • Collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity
  • Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.
    • Evensong, Second Collect, for Aid against Perils, p. 31
  • Dost thou, therefore, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?
    • Holy Baptism, To the Godfathers and Godmothers, p. 276
  • In the midst of life we are in death.
    • Canticle from the Order for Burial of the Dead, p. 332
  • Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life.
    • Prayer of Commital from the Order for Burial of the Dead, p. 332
  • Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
    • Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Advent
  • We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
    • A General Confession, p. 6
  • We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
    • A General Confession, p. 6
  • Have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
    • A General Confession, p. 6
  • Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
    As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
    • Gloria Patri, p. 9
  • I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
    And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting.
    • Apostles' Creed, p. 15
  • Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made;Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man.
    • Nicene Creed, p. 16
  • O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies.
    • A Collect for Peace, p. 17
  • O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations.
    • A Prayer for All Conditions of Men, p. 18
  • We commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways inflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate.
    • A Prayer for All Conditions of Men, p. 19
  • We, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
    • A General Thanksgiving, p. 19
  • Almighty God, who...dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servents, as may be most expedient for them.
    • A Prayer of St. Chrysostom, p. 20
  • Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression.
    • "For Social Justice"

Easter edit

  • He is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.
    • Morning Prayer, p. 5

The Litany edit

  • From all blindness of heart, from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,
    Good Lord, deliver us. p.54
  • From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil. p.54
  • From battle and murder, and from sudden death. p.54
  • Give to all nations unity, peace, and concord. p.56
  • The kindly fruits of the earth. p.57

Holy Communion edit

  • Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name.
    • The Collect for Purity, p. 67
  • Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life.
    • To those who come to receive the Holy Communion, p. 75
  • We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.
    • General Confession, p. 75
  • Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee.
    • Proper Preface, p. 77
  • And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee.
    • The Invocation, p. 81
  • The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
    • Blessing, p. 84

Solemnization of Matrimony edit

  • Is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in fear of God.
  • If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
  • Wilt thou...forsaking all others, keep thee only unto (him/her), so long as ye both shall live?
  • To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.
  • With all my worldly goods I thee endow.
  • With this Ring I thee wed.
  • Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

Quotes about the Book of Common Prayer edit

  • The poor Roman Catholics have had to start from scratch, and, as any of them with a feeling for language will admit, they have made a cacophonous horror of the Mass. We had the extraordinary good fortune in that our Book of Common Prayer was composed at exactly the right historical moment. The English language had already become more or less what it is today, so that the Prayer Book is no more difficult to follow than Shakespeare, but the ecclesiastics of the sixteenth century still possessed a feeling for the ritual and ceremonious which today we have almost entirely lost. Why should we spit on our luck?
    • W. H. Auden, 'Liturgy, Reform of', A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970), p. 226
  • [I believe the] whole booke to be the best liturgy in the world, especially the communion service, it beeinge allmost impossible that any office penn'd by men (not divinely inspired) should breath more piety, or containe more truth and decency.
    • Thomas Barlow, quoted in R. A. Beddard, 'Restoration Oxford and the Remaking of the Protestant Establishment', in Nicholas Tyacke (ed.), The History of the University of Oxford, Volume IV: Seventeenth-Century Oxford (1997), pp. 803–862
  • All I can say is that with age I find myself enjoying more and more the words and rhythms of the Book of Common Prayer. Apart from their meaning, they sound right and they are not talking down to us by being matey, and where they're a bit vague and archaic, that makes them grand and historic. The words give me time to meditate and pray; they are so familiar, they are like my birthplace, and I don't want them pulled down.
    We are all of us preservationists who have had the luck to come out of the womb and with all our faculties.
    • John Betjeman, quoted in Brian Morris (ed.), Ritual Murder: Essays on Liturgical Reform (1980), p. 31
  • The Christian God of both church and chapel is approached by worship which is low-toned, pragmatic and unemotional. Where the Anglicans are concerned, the national attitude towards religion, seemly, decorous, polite, restrained, sensible, still dominates both the personal and the intellectual. Suffolk farm-workers use the incomparable English of the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible with naturalness and ease. Modern translations and the 1967 new Communion Service do not possess for them the virtue of the immense Elizabethan and Stuart incantations. Simplification is bafflement.
    • Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (1969), p. 58
  • Early in June, 1940, I went to St. Deniol's Library to meet Mr. Vidler, and at the very first Matins at the little chapel I knew that I had come home. I had not attended an Anglican service before. I was fifty years old. I was not a raw youth to be impressed. I came with a lifetime of suffering, and found that "I was in the spirit", deep called to deep. Late that first night I sat up reading, for the first time in my life, The Book of Common Prayer. "How is it", I asked myself, "that I have never read this before?" I found the Prayer Book to be more exciting at that first reading than any novel. I experienced a sense of ecstasy, I knew that I had found my spiritual place of abiding, that my buffered, storm-tossed barque had reached its haven.
  • The Book of Common-Prayer, and administration of the Sacraments formerly established and used here in England is absolutely the best Form and freest from all just exceptions in all essentiall points and practices of Religion, that ever yet saw light in the Christian world.
    • Lionel Gatford, A Petition for the Vindication of the Publique use of the Book of Common Prayer (1654), quoted in Bryan D. Spinks, Sacraments, Ceremonies and the Stuart Divines: Sacramental Theology and Liturgy in England and Scotland 1603–1662 (2017)
  • [T]he essential principles of Anglicanism stand out to view most conspicuously in the Book of Common Prayer... the Prayer-book, representing the purged and ordered current of traditional religion, exhibits the permanent effects of Reformation, and forms the true and abiding standard of Anglican orthodoxy. It embodies the Anglican version of the Catholic system.
    • Hensley Henson, 'The Church of England', in Hensley Henson (ed.), Church Problems: A View of Modern Anglicanism (1900), pp. 4-5
  • One of my earliest loves was the Book of Common Prayer. I was seduced by it, by its beautiful words and the sense of history.
    • P. D. James, interview with Victoria McKee, quoted in Victoria McKee, 'P.D. James', The Times Magazine (22 May 1993), p. 43
  • There is no such sharp break between the Book of Common Prayer (1549) and earlier liturgical prose as there is between Tyndale and the medieval translators of scripture. It is an anonymous and corporate work in which Cranmer bore the chief part, and it is almost wholly traditional in matter though some of the excellences of its style are new... Sometimes, but very sparingly, the compilers borrowed from the recent liturgical experiments of the continental Reformers. Some prayers they translated from the Greek, and some they added of their own, but these were closely modelled on scripture. They wished their book to be praised not for original genius but for catholicity and antiquity, and it is in fact the ripe fruit of centuries of worship.
    • C. S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (1954), p. 215
  • [I]n general the style of that volume [Book of Common Prayer] is such as cannot be improved. The English Liturgy indeed gains by being compared even with those fine ancient Liturgies from which it is to a great extent taken. The essential qualities of devotional eloquence, conciseness, majestic simplicity, pathetic earnestness of supplication, sobered by a profound reverence, are common between the translations and the originals. But in the subordinate graces of diction the originals must be allowed to be far inferior to the translations. And the reason is obvious. The technical phraseology of Christianity did not become a part of the Latin language till that language had passed the age of maturity and was sinking into barbarism. But the technical phraseology of Christianity was found in the Anglosaxon and in the Norman French, long before the union of those two dialects had produced a third dialect superior to either. The Latin of the Roman Catholic services, therefore, is Latin in the last stage of decay. The English of our services is English in all the vigour and suppleness of early youth. To the great Latin writers, to Terence and Lucretius, to Cicero and Caesar, to Tacitus and Quinctilian, the noblest compositions of Ambrose and Gregory would have seemed to be, not merely bad writing, but senseless gibberish. The diction of our Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, has directly or indirectly contributed to form the diction of almost every great English writer, and has extorted the admiration of the most accomplished infidels and of the most accomplished nonconformists, of such men as David Hume and Robert Hall.
  • One of the unique features of the English 'Reformation' – i.e., of the history of the C of E – is the fact that it coincides with a climax in the history of English prose. Even the role of Luther's German in his reformation movement and in the subsequent cultural history of Germany provides no adequate analogy or comparison. The King James Bible, the BCP and what we today associate with the name of Cranmer are lasting monuments to this accidental (or providential?) conjunction. The degradation of language and liturgy seem to go hand in hand. It is no longer a matter of throwing out the baby with the bathwater but simply of throwing away a casket of jewels.
    • David Martin, 'A plea for our Common Prayer', in Brian Morris (ed.), Ritual Murder: Essays on Liturgical Reform (1980), p. 17
  • What the great hymnbook of 1780 is to the Methodists and the Psalter to the Presbyterians, the Book of Common Prayer is to the English Church: "unique, unapproachable, elemental in its perfection". With the Authorised Version it is our living link with ourselves and with the early modern phase of our language in its first simple and supple splendour. Herbert Howells, one of the finest of our church composers in the older generation, puts the threat quite simply: "It is as if someone has gone around and put black marks on parish church after parish church, and one cathedral after another."
    • David Martin, 'A plea for our Common Prayer', in Brian Morris (ed.), Ritual Murder: Essays on Liturgical Reform (1980), pp. 21-22
  • Everything about my education came to focus in my attempt to save the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible. These texts, with hymnody, were what I most obviously shared with my father, and now the generations were being separated from each other just where they might expect continuity. To maintain something of that continuity I found myself in correspondence with the intelligence and imagination of England. The Prayer Book, the KJV and classic hymnody for me brought together poetry, music, poetry set to music, the poetics of place, the Church in a place, and articulate speech.
    • David Martin, The Education of David Martin: The Making of An Unlikely Sociologist (2013), p. 161
  • [A]fter eighty years of maturation, a hybrid church, thoroughly if murkily reformed in its doctrines, unreformed in its government, a mish-mash in its liturgy, had achieved not only an intellectual self-confidence but a rhythm of worship, piety, practice, that had earthed itself into the Englishman's consciousness and had sunk deep roots in popular culture.
    • John Morrill, 'The Church in England, 1642–9', in John Morrill (ed.), Reactions to the English Civil War 1642–1649 (1982), p. 113
  • [For the poor the Book of Common Prayer] was their daily spiritual food, that they feed upon; and in regard of the customs of it, they had gotten it by heart most of it, and found great comfort by it.
    • Mary Pope, A Treatise of Magistracy (1647), quoted in Bryan D. Spinks, Sacraments, Ceremonies and the Stuart Divines: Sacramental Theology and Liturgy in England and Scotland 1603–1662 (2017)
  • By one of those happy combinations of circumstance in English history which half persuade us that our nation is specially favoured by Providence, the Book of Common Prayer was preserved intact through more than four centuries while the passage of time subtly imparted to it the supercharge of archaism and familiarity which it could not possess at the outset but which make it a uniquely English vehicle of religious and ritual expression.
    • Enoch Powell, 'The Language of the Prayer Book', address to The National Conference of The Prayer Book Society in Trinity Hall, Cambridge (10 September 1983), published in The Salisbury Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter 1984), quoted in Roger Scruton (ed.), Conservative Thoughts (1988), p. 75
  • Until the synodical revolution of the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974, the language of the Book of Common Prayer was distinguished by being uniquely authoritative, established and fixed by the Crown in Parliament, the supreme source of authority in this realm... The Tractarians were doubly right when they acclaimed the Book of Common Prayer as the proof of the catholicism of the Anglican Church: right because the words and formulae, being themselves impregnable, were susceptible of an interpretation which bridged the gulf of the Reformation; and right because the essential mark of catholicism, uniformity imposed by universal authority, was placed upon it by the untrammelled imperium of the English nation state. Without the authoritative fixity of its liturgy, the unique comprehensiveness and broadmindedness of the Church of England would not have been possible.
    • Enoch Powell, 'The Language of the Prayer Book', address to The National Conference of The Prayer Book Society in Trinity Hall, Cambridge (10 September 1983), published in The Salisbury Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter 1984), quoted in Roger Scruton (ed.), Conservative Thoughts (1988), pp. 78-78
  • As if you would know how the Church of England serves God, go to the Common-prayer book, consult not this, or that man.
    • John Selden, The Table Talk of John Selden, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (1892), p. 105
  • Seek not to change even what you deem faulty, for hardly any change could be effected in the Prayer Book or Formularies which would not result in greater evils than those which you wish to remedy. You cannot realize in imagination the extent of the evil results to England of any material alteration in the Book of Common Prayer: no other human work is so free from faults as it is.
    • Charles Simeon, quoted in Arthur William Brown, Recollections of the Conversation Parties of the Rev. Charles Simeon (1863), p. 62
  • Certainly, more than any other book except the Authorised Version of the Bible, his [Thomas Cranmer's] Prayer Book has moulded the English character and has educated the English mind.
    • Charles Smyth, The Church and the Nation: Six Studies in the Anglican Tradition (1962), p. 55
  • He [George Herbert] said to Mr. Duncon, "Sir, I see by your habit that you are a priest, and I desire you to pray with me;" which being granted, Mr. Duncon asked him "What prayers?" to which Mr. Herbert's answer was, "O, Sir, the prayers of my mother the Church of England; no other prayers are equal to them!"
    • Izaak Walton, 'The Life of Mr. George Herbert', The Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. George Herbert, and Dr. Robert Sanderson (1796), p. 378
  • I believe there is no liturgy in the World, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational Piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it, not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.
    • John Wesley, The Sunday Service of the Methodists; With Other Occasional Services (1788), p. 3

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