On prayer books and reading prayers

I was raised in a conservative holiness tradition.  No one read prayers!  Somehow reading prayers, to me was a sign.  Now, how I processed this, or I came to the understanding of this—I haven’t a clue.  If you read prayers that meant you really didn’t know God—you were pretending.  If you knew God in a personal manner you would never read something someone else had written.  That was tantamount to taking your special someone on a date to a fancy restaurant and reading out of a book all evening long rather than sharing your heart.

At least—that’s what I thought, or I was told—or I concluded.

John Brownhill broke the rules for me.  John was the rector of the Anglican Church in South Porcupine and became a personal friend of mine.  I can’t quite recall how we initially met, but I recall his story.  He was sick—very sick—I believe with cancer and found his way into a Pentecostal church where he was healed.  Afterwards he was called into the ministry and became an Anglican priest.  At the time—a complete mystery to me!  Anyway back to John.  Early on in our friendship he gave me a copy of a little red book called The Common Book of Prayer. Aha!  Now the truth comes out!   John doesn’t really know Jesus—he is pretending!  But being kind and polite I took the little book home and the next day took it into my morning prayer time.  (not telling a soul!)  I opened the book and began reading. 

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of
Almighty God our heavenly Father, to render thanks for the
great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth
his most worthy praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for
ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are 
necessary for our life and our salvation.  And so that we may 
prepare ourselves in heart and mind to worship him, let us 
kneel in silence, and with penitent and obedient hearts 
confess our sins, that we may obtain forgiveness by his 
infinite goodness and mercy.

Now I am mystified. I read more and more and got more and more confused.  First because a high percentage of the book was actual scripture.  And second, it was great!  It made sense!  It gave me some things to pray that I never thought of before!

So I entered into the world of prayer books, written prayers, and writing my own prayers. 

A few helpful comments:

  1. I don’t see extemporaneous prayer as the only way to pray.  I don’t see one kind of prayer better than the other.  I see it mostly as personal preference or culture.
  2. I’ve noticed that my extemporaneous prayers can be, and probably are pretty repetitive.  There are certain phrases that I use and use and use.  Now because most of my praying is in secret that’s okay!
  3. I started writing out prayers.  I make a habit of journaling (come back next week for a blog on journaling!) and in that journal often write out my prayers.
  4. I have a prayer book of sort that you can, for the time, download for free.  Here is the link:   Prayer
  5. I use prayer books and prayer sites often.  I read prayers written by others and am moved, stirred, impressed, impacted.  It’s like I get to sit with others—and listen to them pray. 

I read Augustine of Hippo (345-430)

O loving God,
to turn away from you is to fall,
to turn toward you is to rise,
and to stand before you is to abide forever. Grant us, dear God,
in all our duties your help;
in all our uncertainties your guidance;
in all our dangers your protection;
and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

——Now, if all I did was extemporaneous praying—I’d miss stuff like that!

6.  I think I pray a fair amount—-using written prayers, prayer books— frankly give me more to pray with!  I don’t have to be creative, working hard thinking.  Sometimes that’s a nice break!

7.  When I use a prayer book, my mind begins to realize that thousands of other believers around the globe are praying this prayer today with me—maybe even right now!  Isn’t that awesome?

8.  I haven’t suggested a particular prayer book or prayers.  As I have done since I began this series—try google!   Happy praying!


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