Happy New Year! As 2020 begins, perhaps you are resolved to build the habit of morning and evening family prayer in your home. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by options and resources. But, whether you are Anglican or not, if you appreciate the Book of Common Prayer, you can find a simple place to start.
The Shortest Form of Morning and Evening Prayer
Here is a printable for the most basic form of a family prayer in the 1928 Prayer Book. It contains the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer for morning/evening, and a benediction. (If you own a 1928 Prayer Book, you can find the section on “forms of Prayer to be used in Families” at the very end, after the catechism and before the Articles of Religion).
When you click on the printable, you’re probably going to think, “Really, that’s all?” It is indeed very short. But, as the great Anglican Jeremy Taylor said, “I’d rather your prayers be often than long.”
Even though it’s short, you’re still praying the “Lord’s Prayer” at least twice a day. This is not something to sheepishly diminish with a shrug, an apologetic “That’s all we’re doing.” The Didache, an early Christian manual that dates from the first century, instructs that Christians should pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day (thus adapting the Jewish daily practice of praying morning-afternoon-evening.) I remember this simple instruction when I feel tempted to not pray because we don’t have enough time or my kids seem too unruly. Surely, we can manage the Lord’s Prayer and surely that’s not something to scoff at.
Here is how the church father Tertullian commended the Lord’s Prayer:
“In summaries of so few words, how many utterances of the prophets, the Gospels, the apostles— how many discourses, examples, parables of the Lord, are touched on! How many duties are simultaneously discharged! The honour of God in the Father; the testimony of faith in the Name; the offering of obedience in the Will; the commemoration of hope in the Kingdom; the petition for life in the Bread; the full acknowledgment of debts in the prayer for their Forgiveness; the anxious dread of temptation in the request for Protection. What wonder? God alone could teach how he wished Himself prayed to. The religious rite of prayer therefore, ordained by Himself, and animated, even at the moment when it was issuing out of the Divine mouth, by His own Spirit, ascends, by its own prerogative, into heaven, commending to the Father what the Son has taught.”
Now, using the shortest form of family prayer as a starting point, it’s straightforward to incrementally add a short psalm, a short Scripture reading, and the Apostles Creed. And then you have family prayer that reflects the basic shape of the daily office (Sidenote: if you want to incorporate the full office, Cradle of Prayer is wonderful).
When you start, one thing that is so simple, but helpful is lighting a candle (or, even better, one for each child). Candles seem to set the time of prayer apart from the rest of the day. It makes an event — a special time in a special place– within the candle’s glow (but be prepared that if you just have one candle, you’ll have to deal with who gets to blow it out).
Our church uses the 1928 Prayer Book, so that is the source for our resources. However, the family prayer sections are great in the new ACNA Prayer Book (you can download the document for family prayer here) or the 1979 Prayer Book.
Can we really go wrong whenever we intentionally set apart time for prayer and Scripture, orienting our days around love for our Lord? Even if it feels like a paltry offering, we remember that Jesus commends the widow’s mite. He likewise delights in a family’s sacrifice of prayer, even when it’s interrupted by distracted young children who seem to only care about whose turn it is to blow out the candle.
If you’d like to read more, here are the resources that we’ve collected on our Family Prayer page:
Book of Common Prayer
Family Prayer Booklets
More Family Prayer
- Reverence and Reticence: Charlotte Mason on Teaching Scripture to our Children
- Family Prayer and Julian of Norwich
- Prayer Book Liturgical Living
- There’s a Prayer for That – Kelli Ann Wilson of Around the Year
- A Baptist and the BCP – Jordan Riggle
- Prayer Habits for Parents – Erica Jarrett of Liturgy of Life
- Daily Prayer, “By the Book – Fr. Isaac Rehburg
- Family Prayer: An Uncommon Habit – Andrew Brashier of Through a Mirror Darkly
- Evening Prayer with a Xylophone
- Advent Collects
- Collects Beyond Christmas
- Lenten Collects
- Eastertide Collects
- Ordinary Time Collects