Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

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TITLE: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

AUTHOR: Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro

AUDIENCE: Communities who wish to have a guide to a regular corporate worship time in a liturgical style.

If you grew up in Protestant churches and have gone through a million “daily devotionals” and looking for something new and refreshing or if you simply see the value in liturgical-style worship, then this book is an excellent guide to daily worship time.

The book consists of a few prayers that you can recite midday and nightly and on various occasions. It also includes some details theology and church history information for each month that is helpful in preparing for new seasons of the year.

The majority of the book is the individual daily readings and prayers that are meant do be done in a community of some sort. The subtitle of the book (“a liturgy for ordinary radicals”), reminds us that the book is meant for groups to participate (“liturgy” is ordered worship for public settings). I believe this is where the value of employing this book at home is. While the Protestant church tends to emphasize daily “quiet times” or personal devotionals, the liturgy pushes us to fellowship with God communally; with roommate, or neighbor, or spouse, or family.

For each day there is a prescription for corporate worship that follows a similar format (history, opening prayer, call to musical worship, reading of Psalms and other texts, call for prayer, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and a closing). It is surprising how a historical detail can help to prepare one’s heart for meditation and prayer, so the fact that each day begins with history makes sense. Sometimes its Church history which prompts us to remember ourselves in the context of a Church that spans millennia. Sometimes its world history that helps us reflect on our place in a vast and complex world. These historical details help make the prayer exist in a real world.

The call to worship is a mix of songs from a variety of Christian traditions; ranging from spirituals to Taize chants.

The scripture reading is not as exhaustive as a lectionary, which read through the entire Bible every three years, but nonetheless guide through a good portion of scripture in meaningful portions. Including a Psalm each day is a standard lectionary practice which is also employed in Common Prayer. This helps ensure that if you have a younger audience, they are sure to apprehend at least this portion each day.

The common formulas throughout the daily readings (each day begins with “Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you” and praying the Lord’s Prayer), also appeal to younger audience as a way to pass down our faith to our next generation. They also aide all Christians in praying corporately. Many non-liturgical people may look at the repeated corporate prayers and feel that they are participating in “vain repetitions” (Matt. 6:7), but I assure you that if you do not treat them as vain or repetitious, you will uncover a new way of corporately. As Shane Claiborne puts it:

“In an individualistic culture, liturgy helps us live a communal life. In an ever-changing world, liturgy roots us in the eternal – something that was around long before us and will live long after us…”

The overall organization of the book has made it easy for my family to quickly adapt to regular liturgical worship. That does not mean we never miss a single day (I don’t think we’ve done a single Sunday, or any of the midday prayers), but it is another tool in helping communities set our selves apart; not only in morals and beliefs, but in practice and priority. We have made our worship time a priority in our house with this book as the primary tool.

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Chris Saenz
Chris Saenz is the founder of Post-Christian Era. He has a Master's Degree in Biblical Studies and more than a decade of church work in teaching, worship, and discipleship across many church settings and denominations. He and his wife and three children live in the Los Angeles area (Covina, CA).