CHRISTIAN WORSHIP is patterned by cycles of time that embrace the day, thweek, the seasons of the year, and the human life cycle. It moves dawn to duskspring to winter, womb to tomb, cradle to grave.
One of the most remarkable developments in liturgical renewal in recenyears has been a revival of interest in prayer through the day. We see it, foexample, in The Methodist Worship Book (1999) anWorship: from the United Reformed Church (2003). For the first time ithe worship books of those denominations, each has included sections on dailprayer.
In the Church of England, an important landmark in the revival of interesin daily prayer was marked by the publication in 2005 oCommon Worship: Daily Prayer, a 900-page resource book. The generouprovisions of this collection are an astonishing contrast to the AlternativService Book of 1980, in which material for morning and evening prayeconsisted of a limited range, covering just a handful of pages. The growth oresources for daily prayer is explosive.
In its richness, the new Common Worship book provides for botsimple and elaborate forms of daily prayer, from a full office of canticles anreadings to a basic structure for an uncluttered "quiet time".
In this, it recognises two things: first, the extraordinary popularity oCelebrating Common Prayer, an office book drawn from AnglicaFranciscan communities, and initially published in the early 1990s, to mucappreciation from Anglicans of different church styles, all tired of thpaucity of the ASB's resources in this area.
Like Celebrating Common Prayer, Daily Prayer includeabundant material for use in a full office. It rehabilitates midday and nighprayer alongside morning and evening prayer, and recommends the symbolienrichment of the office - with candle-lights, incense, icons, etc. - as mighbe employed in the liturgical repertoire of many monastic communities. Some othis, however, may be unfamiliar in at least some parishes.
Second, Daily Prayer recognises that, for many Evangelicals, "quiet time" of scripture reading and fairly unstructured prayer seemperfectly sustaining as a pattern of daily prayer. "Prayer during the day", thsimpler form in Daily Prayer, seeks to "provide a framework for daily Quiet Time and Bible study", wrapping a couple of suggested scriptursentences around longer scripture reading and free prayer.
Variation, improvisation, and extemporisation are all encouraged in thcontext of "silence, study, and song". In its double recognition, the genius oDaily Prayer is that it provides for people with very differenexperiences, expectations, and a sense of enjoyment in their spirituadisciplines
A 900-page book might at first seem to hinder the usability oCommon Worship: Daily Prayer, particularly given that it claims to ba resource for prayer of the whole people of God, lay and ordained, whtogether share the "privilege and duty which belongs to all God's priestlpeople".
As there are "many possible combinations" in which its wide resources can bemployed, however, the richness of Daily Prayer is perhaps best mineby groups and parishes, through use of local and bespoke orders. In the samway, (New) Patterns for Worship (1989, 1995, 2002) and the varioueditions of Visual Liturgy have encouraged engagement with the Common Worshimaterials more generally.
It is significant that the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr David Stancliffe, whchaired the Liturgical Commission through the period of compilation anpublication, has produced two further publications of his own.
Dr Stancliffe gives a strong lead in showing how people and groups, whosendeavours can symbolise "praying with the Church", might make the resourcetheir own
THE WIDENESS of the Daily Prayer resources also has a longehistory. They reflect, to use a phrase of Professor Paul Bradshaw, "two ways opraying" inherited from the Early Church - or at least some early churches othe fourth century. One way is known variously as "city", "urban", o"cathedral" prayer, and is of a corporate, communal, congregational kind.
At the heart of city prayer is the remarkable and enduring sense thaliturgical prayer is always expressed as part of the communion of saints, anthat its purpose is crucial to nothing less than the flourishing of the earthAs George Guiver puts it, "offered by all, in the indivisible oneness oChrist's body" (Company of Voices).
This prayer is offered on behalf of all creation, and has as its focuintercession for the world's salvation. Even if only two or three people gathetogether for prayer, the sense in city prayer is very much of joining isomething much greater and grand, which both echoes the prayer of heaven, anmatters for the earth.
Given the sense of purpose that developed around this style of prayer, it inot surprising that ceremonial practices came to lend it a kind of gravitas. Icame to be led by ordained ministers, gathering others around them for prayerand music grew in importance. Physical postures, such as standing or kneelinfor different parts of the service, came to be seen as integral to it.
One of the most defining marks of city prayer is that the lighting of lampcame to be an important feature, accompanying an opening song about Christ athe light of the world. Incense was burned to accompany the recitation of Psal141: "Let my prayer rise before you as incense."
The other way is known variously as "desert" or "monastic" prayer. Deserprayer developed quite differently from city prayer, and has different ideas aits heart. In contrast to the emphasis on the communal, in the city traditiondesert prayer developed much more as an individual activity. The very wor"desert" suggests its solitary character; it reflects the stress in manmonastic traditions on the "cell", or enclosure - it did not require thcompany of others; for, as the scriptures are opened, communion is focused odivine presence.
Whereas city prayer had a definite outward-looking aspect to it - the needof the world, the whole creation, the company of heaven - desert prayer, bcontrast, had a much more inward orientation. It was essentially abounourishing the heart by means of meditation on scripture, particularly thpsalms. Unlike the city tradition, which uses a select number of psalms sometimes to accompany ritual, such as Psalm 141 with the burning of incense desert prayer stresses the value of spiritual reflection on all 150 psalmsread in an ordered and disciplined way.
In general, there is much wider use of scripture in the desert tradition oprayer than in the city tradition. Furthermore, the inward orientation of thdesert pattern means that the ritual practices, such as lamp-lighting, thabecame key features of city prayer did not develop in the desert style oprayer.
In addition, where city prayer tended to be led by the ordained ministersdesert prayer - where it took place in company, as in monastic communities seems to have developed with less distinction between leaders and led: peoplcommonly took turns to lead others in reading scripture, or in prayer.
At the very least, Common Worship: Daily Prayer is an attempt thonour and celebrate this diverse history. This matters, because thesdifferent kinds of inheritance have obvious resonances with the range opreferences, and styles of devotion, to which Daily Prayer gives expression iour contemporary context. In so far as the book manages to hold all thitogether, it models an important sense of unity, and is something that can btreasured
Dr Stephen Burns is tutor in liturgy at the Queen's Foundation foEcumenical Theological Education.
Stephen Burns explores these ideas further in the latesChurch Times Study GuideEmbracing the Day: Exploring daily prayer. More detail<