The Book of Common Prayer | The Brandon & Brian Show

Join Brandon and Brian as they delve into the significance of the Book of Common Prayer. Explore the history and background of the Book of Common Prayer, tracing its origins to the English Reformation and its profound influence on Western culture. Discover the value of incorporating extra-biblical guides into personal devotion and worship, while addressing common concerns and misconceptions.


Well, welcome again to the Brandon and Brian show. We’re glad to have you back.

I’m Brandon.

And I’m Brian. We’re glad to have you on another episode here, another month as we are looking at the different creeds, councils, and confessions that we have in our devotional guide, Be Thou My Vision. Hopefully, you guys are using this for your daily devotional, or at least weekly, going to it constantly, going through the repetitions. But this book, it uses a thing called The Book of Common Prayer and quotes it and has big sections of it in it. That’s kind of what this is, right? It’s a similar thing. It uses multiple sources instead of one, but the Book of Common Prayer is one of those sources. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about that and kind of the value of using some kind of extra-biblical guide for our worship. Why do we do that? What was the justification for the church to do that in the past and why they needed something like the Book of Common Prayer? What’s the value, concerns, and all that kind of stuff? Brian, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the history and background of the Book of Common Prayer?

Sure. It comes about during the English Reformation when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, decided that he wanted something like this. It’s very much like you just said. It’s not just for corporate worship, but this was a book that was for personal devotion. It has daily prayers and readings in it. So, it’s very similar to the book that we’re talking about in that way. A lot of the Reformation was trying to bring the words of scripture and wisdom about the Christian life to Christians. Luther was very much about that, but Cranmer really felt that burden. One thing that we note, because this was about the middle of the 1500s when this comes about, is there are lots of phrases that you might not realize come from that book. Especially in marriage, if you’ve had a wedding ceremony that you’ve gone to that had additional vows, “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”, those are all part of the Book of Common Prayer. They come from there. Also, “at their wit’s end”, “at death’s door”, so some of these phrases that are in very common use came from there. But again, it’s a devotional, as part of the English Reformation. So, the Reformation, properly, we probably think of it starting in Germany with Luther, yeah, spreading out through Europe. This is really where it hits England, and then when we eventually get to the Westminster, it’s almost a hundred years after this. So, the Book of Common Prayer is this kind of precursor to this personal devotion. And to call back a little bit to something we talked about in a previous episode, it includes like the Apostles Creed being done daily. So, you’re starting to see these things being connected over several centuries of what is classical or valuable. And like you said, it has a strong influence on Western culture and society. You know, sometimes those little phrases, but it was what people understood. And some people have the tendency of saying, “Why do I want to read a prayer? Why don’t I just be led by the Spirit and let the Spirit lead my words?” And think it’s kind of weird to read a prayer, you know? We’ve had kind of a misunderstanding of what it means to be led by the Spirit, you know? You know, we’ve got to trust that and we hopefully trust that God’s Spirit has been on his leaders before. And so sometimes when you’re looking at things like the Book of Common Prayer, it’s not inspiring, you know? It’s not scripture. It doesn’t have that kind of authority, but it is written by those who were illumined by the Spirit. And we can use that to guide us, you know, to think about things that maybe we don’t come to our mind that doesn’t spark as you work through these daily devotions and you use our devotion as kind of like a Book of Common Prayer, you use it as a daily devotion, it brings up stuff that maybe you don’t want to deal with, you know? It brings to mind things and struggles that you probably have in your heart that you don’t want to deal with, you know, the frailty of your faith in different areas, you know? But it’s going to force you to do that, right?

Right, because we tend to pray about the things that we really want, as opposed to when you look at these devotions, it’s not about having great health, having my kids well behaved, having my career go well, having business things go right, you know? It’s more about spiritual formation, right? Trusting in God’s word, guiding those things, realizing our need for his Spirit in our lives, you know? We don’t want to think that way, right?

No, I think that’s a great point that you’re making because I think sometimes depending on our church background, we might have a little bit of that, isn’t this a bit of vain repetition that is talked about in scripture? Maybe this is uncomfortable. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this. But thinking about the context of the way scripture talks about that is almost like an incantation. That’s not what we’re doing here. And this is also, as you look at “Be Thou My Vision”, it incorporates scripture into it. So, it’s not trying to elevate itself above scripture and not saying do a devotional and don’t read God’s word. It’s going ahead and doing all of those things together because a lot of this really is that spiritual discipline, it’s that doing things when you don’t feel like it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t feel very prayerful, I don’t feel very drawn to God’s word, I don’t feel interested, like you said, in looking at prayers that talk about our situation in this world. But I need to. It helps me become more like Christ, right?

Yeah. And then so, it’s very valuable just to kind of let other men’s thoughts, other men that God was working through, trusting that the Spirit was in their working in their lives and they’re writing these, pin and using that as a way to guide our personal worship and not think of worship is something that we do just on Sundays, right?

Right. And just as a teaser, we will get into some of those men in future episodes where we’ll talk about some of them and why they would be included in a book like this, why are people that were born, you know, 300 years ago being quoted in this book, or Puritans or whoever it may be, right?

That’s great. I think that gives them a little introduction on the use and the need and the value of the Book of Common Prayer. What are the concerns you think that people try to bring up about using something like the Book of Common Prayer?

I think it is kind of as a replacement. I think that would be the main concern, is it’s, you’re ending up having something else take away from your time in prayer and scripture reading. And again, like, that is definitely not the intent of it. Hopefully, we’re being very clear about how these things are not inspired, inherent, authoritative, but they are very helpful, and they’ve been used over many centuries to build up God’s people alongside of God’s word, not as a, not as a, um, on the same plane with it.

Yeah, it’s like the Ethiopian eunuch who says, “How can I understand these things unless somebody explained them to me, right?” You know, and things like be them of, they’re a guide, right? Help explain how you integrate the, the scriptures and, and prayer and devotion into your daily life.

Yeah. And to kind of end on a more kind of a, um, maybe a little bit of a more joking note, I remember there was this story where there’s a guy came from overseas, and he was asking because he had grown up in a confessional church. And he said, “What is your confession?” And he said this to people that were, were not confessional. And they said, “No, we believe in the Bible.” And he looked down at his bible and he said, “But there’s so many pages.”

Right? The confession isn’t saying, “Hey, we’re taking over the Bible.” The confession is saying, “Hey, these are those denominational distinctives.” The catechism is saying, “How can we simply bring across these things, right?” The Bible is so many pages, and it’s really helpful to sometimes have this way to, um, to have a hook to hang things on.

Yeah, no, no, here’s what we think scripture actually teaches, right? It’s important.

All right, well done on another episode of the Brandon and Brian show. It’s glad, I just enjoy being able to spend time with you here, and hopefully, this is enjoyable for those who are viewing.

Yeah, see you guys next time.

All right, see you next time on the Brandon and Brian show.