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The Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer is the guide to worship and devotion used in the Episcopal Church. It frames our worship life, our faith and belief, and our daily relationship with God.  We hope to answer some of the questions you may have and make worship in the Episcopal tradition easier for you using The Book of Common Prayer

Our current Book of Common Prayer, revised in 1979, was originally compiled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, in 1549. There are more than 70 million Anglicans (Episcopalians) in 163 countries throughout the world, using a Book of Common Prayer in their own language, reflecting our diversity, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 

See a Complete Copy of the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 online

What is the Book of Common Prayer?

  • The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity, as Armentrout and Slocum note in their An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, that “Anglican liturgical piety has been rooted in the Prayer Book tradition since the publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549. We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer. The prayer book, most recently revised in 1979, contains our liturgies (formulary for public worship), our prayers, our theological documents, and much, much more.

Why call it “Common” prayer?

  • Common does not mean ordinary but “available” to the common person. Originally, the churches in Western Christianity worshiped in Latin. The first Book of Common Prayer  translated these rites and ceremonies into English, therefore making the language of worship accessible to the "common" person. We say these prayers together “in common” when we worship as a community.

Does it relate to the Bible?

  • Scripture is the foundation of our worship. Two-thirds of The Book of Common Prayer comes directly from the Old and New Testaments. 

What services are included?

  • The primary worship service in the Episcopal Church is the celebration of Holy Eucharist (Lord's Supper or Mass) on Sunday. However, The Book of Common Prayer includes all rites and rituals for daily prayers Morning, Noon, Evening, Night (The Daily Office), Baptisms, Confirmation, Marriages, Reconciliation, Ordinations (Deacons, Priests, Bishops), Ministrations at time of death and Burial Rites, as well as special liturgies for Holy Days. The first experience many newcomers to the Episcopal Church have with The Book of Common Prayer is at weddings, baptisms, or at funerals. 

Can it be used in personal devotions?

  • Yes, the prayerbook provides for private daily prayers alone or with family, prayers in the morning, noonday, evening, and before bed. It also includes special prayers of praise or thanksgiving, intercessions for others, and for other special occasions. All 150 Psalms, or ancient songs from the Old Testament, are contained in The Book of Common Prayer and may be read at any time. The Daily Office Lectionary is located in the back of the Book of Common Prayer and may be used for reading most of the entire Bible in a two year cycle. 

Can I make up my own prayers?

  • Yes! Prayer is responding to God with our without words. The Book of Common Prayer sometimes helps us find the words when it is difficult. It is meant to complement our daily individual prayers, not to replace them. Every service in the book includes time for personal prayer requests, either silently or aloud. The Book of Common Prayer has been a resource for comfort, joy and inspiration. It has been a unique treasure in Christian worship for more than 450 years.