Common Prayer: A Book Review

Just before Christmas I received from my favourite online bookseller a copy of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro.

I have increasingly become aware of the power of liturgy (literally meaning “work of the people”) to shape the life of the Church. Claiborne and his companions have come to the aid of us ordinary people who, for whatever reason, don’t belong to a liturgical congregation but who desire to connect with the ancient tradition of liturgical prayer on a daily (or weekly) basis.

Contained in this volume are a series of short (one page for the most part) liturgies for morning prayer which include standard texts, prayers, interesting information on church holy days and people, and even a song selection (melody lines and chords are in the back of the book)–one for every day of the year.

These prayers contain several common threads:

  • The introductory line. “O Lord, my soul rises up to meet you as the day rises to meet the sun.”
  • The Gloria Patri, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son . . .”
  • The Call to worship: “Come, let us bow down and bend the knee; Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”
  • A song selection for the day
  • A Responsive Psalm
  • Two other suggested Scripture Readings
  • A space where prayers for others may be offered
  • The ‘Our Father’ and
  • The Benediction (may be sung):

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shwon you.
May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

In addition to this, there are sections containing a week-long cycle of midday and evening prayers, and another section of occasional prayers (for blessing a house, prayers for a workplace, baby dedication, or at the time of a death in the neighborhood, to name a few).

The title suggests this book is aimed at those who consider themselves, along with Shane and his co-conspirators, to be ‘ordinary radicals’–a phrase coined by Shane and often used in an earlier book The Irresistible Revolution.

This label brings with it a sense of something unusual, a challenging of the status quo, something the authors are well-suited to address since it is their way of life to live as subversive, peace-loving, Kingdom citizens. Thus, throughout the book you will find a generous sprinkling of references to the poor, the marginalised, the underprivileged, the outcast, and the innocent victims of injustice. Did you know May 15 is International Conscientious Objector‘s Day? How about an introduction to Brigid of Kildare who was known for her compassion and hospitality (February 1). Or remembering the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama (September 15).

Sharing these important people, commemorations and days opens our conscious mind each day to the needs in our world and the urgency of the over-arching prayer: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.’

I recommend Common Prayer not as a book that will be something we may sit down and read for enjoyment or out of interest, but as a tool to help shape our worldview and centre our focus on those values and principles that are at the heart of the gospel.

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