A few weeks ago in a meeting here at church, I lead devotions from one of the “Prayer Books” in my collection.  At the time of introduction, I quipped: “Collecting prayer books is one of my vices.”  After the meeting someone said to me that perhaps I should choose another noun to describe my relationship with ‘prayer books.’

Ok, so there isn’t anything particularly corrupt about collecting prayer books.  Nor is there any depravity evident.  Still, my wife wondered aloud once (when I gleefully opened a package from a publisher) ‘how many prayer books does one person need?’

I don’t know.  One or two should do.  I have many more than that.

It all started when my grandfather (probably more than 20 years ago now) gave me a slender volume titled: “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.”  I used that one for many, many years.

When my Spiritual Director introduced me to Benedictine Spirituality (he is an Associate at Holy Cross Monestary, West Park NY), I found that the Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP) fit my temprament quite well.  Since then I have joined a religious order and part of our ‘rule’ includes praying the daily office.  A Benedictine friend, after hearing that I use the BDP suggested to drink from the ‘purest water’ I needed to use The Monastic Diurnal…which I have from time to time. Others moved me to try the Daily Office (Society of Saint Francis).  All of these are variations of the Daily Office which consists of ‘hours’ which are kept eight times a day in monastic communities where there primary ‘work’ is prayer.

I have often lamented that I don’t have or don’t take the time for the eight hours to be kept.  So others noted that A New Zealand Prayer Book offered morning and evening prayer (As does Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), Book of Worship, and the much loved Book of Common Prayer (BCP)).  For those of us not cloistered in community morning and evening prayer seem managable.

The other day I was surveying the collection of prayer books as I added two new volumes to it.  These two are very different, but interesting just the same.  The first one is titled “Seeking God’s Face” and is from the Christian Reformed Church.  It, like my first prayer book uses a once a day format.  It uses scripture and guided prayer (although they call it ‘free prayer’) along with the psalms for each day of the year.  It notices the Christian Calendar.  It encourages an almost ‘lectio divina’ methodology of ‘dwelling’ with the text for the day.  Not bad, not bad at all.

My tastes (no surprise) are more orthodox.  So when I heard that Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro compiled a prayer book titled: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, I was skeptical.  Once I got one and used it, I really liked it.  It relies heavily on the great church’s calendar.  The saints are remembered and spoken of.  The liturgical year is observed.  And, more than a simple tip of the hat is offered to the other ‘hours’ in the day of prayer.  If one wanted to use this in community (which, lets face it, most prayer books are intended to be used in community) they even provide basic service music.  Names are left off the cover, so that the point is well understood that this book is about joining your voice to the church both militant and triumphant.  It isn’t about who wrote what.  Throughout the book there are brief vingettes that explain what is going on in this prayerful activity.  This is helpful to both novices as well as experienced prayers of the ‘hours.’

I am not going to give up my trusted standard, the BDP published by the monestary in Collegeville Minn.  But, you might find me at my ‘listening post’ using Seeking God’s Face from time to time, or even ‘incognito,’ reading Common Prayer: A  Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, from my Kindle.

I know ‘The Hours’ is not for everyone.  I think this manner of prayer is worth trying as it immerses you in the Psalms, scripture, and some of the most well written prayer I know of.  If one needed to learn to pray, I know of no better place to start.

Do I need to mention that these are not collections of what some might call “Pastoral Prayers?”

By the way, when writing this post I had planned on putting hyperlinks to some of the big-name booksellers on the internet, but I changed my mind.  Here’s how you can find my friend Byron Borger.  He is the best bookseller I know.  He reads what he sells and can comment better than I on every text I mentioned.