Thursday, April 26, 2012

Daily prayer "an obligation and opportunity for all"

Last week I read a review by Alan Jacobs in Books and Culture of a book by Brian Cummings, The Book of Common Prayer: Texts 1549, 1559, and 1662, that reminded me of something that I frequently realize and ponder whenever I read Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, namely that the Protestant Reformation accomplished some important things, which took the Catholic Church all the way to Vatican II to realize. I posted about this back in January.

In his review, Jacobs, wrote the following about the magnificent achievement of Thomas Cranmer, the much maligned Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a reformer on par with Luther and Calvin, The Book of Common Prayer:
"But perhaps even more influential over the past 450 years has been Cranmer's decision to adapt the ancient canonical hours of monastic life to the needs of ordinary laypeople. Even the monks had found it unsustainable to pray the horae canonicae, the original eight daily 'hours' of prayer: their bodies' need for sleep forced them often to condense the sequence. But they prayed frequently, and a common understanding in medieval European society was that those prayers could be offered on behalf of those who had to work instead. However, Cranmer had inherited from Martin Luther a disdain for such a complete division of labor within the church: the Christian calling is a common one, he thought, and needs insofar as possible to be lived out by all in a common manner. Daily prayer is an obligation and an opportunity for all
"The possibility of transformation," writes David Benner, "lies right at the heart of Christian faith." Prayer, he also noted, plays "a central role in this deep inner work of transformation." Fundamentally, prayer is opening one's self to God, allowing God to work in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing about this transformation. St. Paul, in his letter to the Christian community of Rome, wrote powerfully about this inner work: "we... who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.... Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:23.26-27- ESV).


  1. The changing prayers of the day and the readings of the Mass are for our benefit. We can sanctify the work that we do by praying for it's efficacy in terms of salvation for all who may be reached through that work.

  2. True enough, but no substitute for personal prayer, for an intimate relationship with God, through Christ, by the power of the Spirit. Besides, we have no obligation to attend Mass daily. So, while the daily Gospel, or other reading, can serve as great texts for lectio, and we utilize the prayer for the day, we still need to pray. Actually, the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning and Evening Prayer, the so-called hinges, getting back to Cranmer, are also great means of praying in, with, and for the Church.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...