The Need for Common Prayer and Family Oratories

1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

American Christianity has embraced the zeitgeist of her culture and projects the individual as the ultimate unit in society much to the detriment of the family. While Christ came to save sinners, he also has called and elected his people to be built into His body, His temple. See 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9 (“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”).

The cell is the fundamental unit of any body, but individually cannot form tissue or parts of the body without working together. However, we are not called to be individual cells, but to work together and to become parts of the body of Christ. Furthermore, once joined with other cells to form a part of the body, we are to again come together with all of the parts of the body of Christ and to be united:

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slavesd or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts,e yet one body.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-20.

Families are traditionally the base unit and structure of the Christian church as they are the church-within-a-church and the first unit of individual cells gathered together. Therefore, it is crucial that family prayer not only occur, but also catechism occur so that the children in families understand what their faith means and believes. Only by being shaped by the waves of daily prayer and catechism can one’s mind be transformed so that their lives conform to the love that only the Spirit produces over and against the carnal self we are all born into.

Unfortunately, the American church is commonly a place for programs, seminars, and frankly worship that appeals to the individual and does not create a united body that the church is called to be. Instead, one may peruse a cafeteria of options for groups to attend, programs to participate in, and worship that suits one’s personal tastes. Ironically, contemporary evangelicalism is appealing to many of the passions and desires of the old man, without any formation of their members into becoming transformed and transforming Christians. At the end of the day, the American church is creating a creed-less Christian (an oxymoron) whose loyalty to his church is solely based upon what appeals to him, and not any underlying truth taught by his church through catechism, confession, and creed. It is a driftless Christianity with no firm anchor or foundation. It is a building made of straw on the sand and will not stand when challenged.

This is why the Book of Common Prayer is what American Christianity needs. It provides a standard of doctrine reflecting a broad orthodoxy of Reformed thought during the early Reformation and provides a manner of prayers rooted in Trinitarian worship and focused on family use for building up the body of Christ. It provides a rule, or discipline, that has been simplified from the dedicated Benedictine Order. This rule of prayer is the rule of our belief and ultimately the rule of how we live (lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi). In other words, the prayers presented by the Book of Common Prayer in Morning and Evening Prayer  shapes our faith through the wording of the services. Additionally, the services of Morning and Evening Prayer provide not only a set of prayers and optional prayers, but calls for a daily recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and selections from the Bible. When regularly performed, one will quickly learn the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers by heart to reflect upon and pray throughout the day. Additionally, the lectionary allows for one to essentially read the entire Bible within a year (when using the 1662 or 1928 prayer book). When such a discipline of regular prayer is adopted not only by the individual, but also by the family, it naturally builds up a unit of cells within the greater body of Christ.

How can Christians be built up into stronger units of the body of Christ? Through prayer, catechism, and ultimately living out the faith through service to our neighbor. This is what inspired us to begin a family oratory and to open it to other families. We base our prayer life through the Book of Common Prayer not out of Anglican superiority, but because we are Anglicans and believe that our common worship is a broad orthodoxy that bridges the divide between Lutherans and Reformed bodies. Additionally, in a time and place where the majority of American Christians are in a non-liturgical, non-creedal, and uncatechized church, we hope to offer a monthly (hopefully weekly one day) addition to their current place of worship to root them in the deep waters of ancient Christianity.

Being the body of Christ is not traversing one church program to the next, but is a discipline that creates disciples who go out into the world. We pray to be a small unit of cells at Prattville Anglican Fellowship that helps create rootedness through the prayer book for Christians yearning for something deeper. Through this small gathering it is our hope that other families and eventually circuits of families will become united in similar groups of prayer to edify  and enrich their local churches. Until we know our faith through catechism, conform our lives to daily prayer, and let those prayers transform us into actively obeying Christ through serving others, we are merely pagans wearing Christian makeup.

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