Twenty-five years ago, when I was going through a challenging personal time, a very dear friend offered a suggestion to me that changed my life. John, an ordained Episcopal priest, mentioned to me that in such trying times he finds reading Morning or Evening Prayer to be a comfort. This gentle suggestion has been so helpful to me, not just in times of trouble and pain but also in times of joy and blessing.
The Book of Common Prayer is a remarkable resource for Episcopalians. For starters, the services that are a part of our weekly routine at CSMSG are included in the BCP. The text of the service leaflet printed every week for every Sunday service comes right from The Book of Common Prayer. These services include Holy Eucharist and Morning or Evening Prayer. Every Sunday we recite the Nicene Creed, a summary of our beliefs:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-Begotten son of God…
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord and Giver of Life,”
Additionally, the services marking milestone events in our lives are included: Marriage, Holy Baptism, Confirmation and Burial. You will find the liturgies for special holy days like Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter.
But there is so much more! After you’ve noticed the ordination services for a Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, look for the Celebration of a New Ministry such as our Nicaragua missioners. Did you know that there is a special Thanksgiving for the birth or adoption of a child?
One whole section “Prayers and Thanksgivings” (page 809) might inspire you to thank God for your many blessings! There are prayers for the Church, for the World, the Nation, and for Family. One favorite is A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis which is familiar to many, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace.” (page 833). Prayers for those who might seek guidance or for a birthday can be found in this rich section. Grace at Meals (page 835) offers several options for expressing gratitude at mealtime.
“Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all thy mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Another section, The Psalter, is a wonderful place to linger. Read a Psalm such as the familiar 23rd for comfort. Have you ever read Psalm 139 (page 794)?
“Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and rising up
you discern my thoughts from afar.”
Sometimes we Episcopalians feel we can’t “pray from our heart” or that that we can’t express our personal relationship to Jesus. While it might be a commitment we develop with a deepening relationship with Christ, becoming familiar and comfortable with the richness of the BCP can become a way to assist in expressing your connection with God. Set aside time to look through your Prayer Book until you settle on a prayer or read Compline. Maybe it’s time to sit with God for a bit. It might change your life!