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Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer: Beautiful Power of Prayer

Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer: Beautiful Power of Prayer
Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer is the Bible in Worship form. The BCP leads us to the Lord Jesus and fills our lives with His presence.

THOMAS CRANMER (1489 – 1561) was a man of the Bible. A scholar and gentleman, he began his career as a professor, moved into diplomatic service and then was Archbishop of Canterbury. At heart he was a teacher, his subject was the Bible, and his desired outcome getting that Book into the hearts and minds of every English subject.

As testimony to his success, we have the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible in worship form. 87% of the BCP is directly from God’s Word. We have looked briefly at this MASTERPIECE OF CHRISTIAN LITERATURE BEFORE.

But Cranmer’s diplomatic work was indispensable in bringing King Henry VIII to produce the Great Bible and compelling its reading daily, especially among the clergy.

Even more important was his role in administering the Church of England and filling it with Bible-believing bishops and ministers. He is largely responsible for the upbringing and guidance of Henry’s son EDWARD VI who transformed England into a Protestant land.

Cranmer outlived the young king and saw much of his work overturned by Queen Mary who worked tirelessly to return England to Rome. She had Cranmer burned at the stake.

But her time was short, and Cranmer’s work prevailed. Although updated many times since his day, the BCP is still “the Bible in Worship Form,” and is used by churches throughout the Anglican Communion of 85 million souls.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: 3 important foundations

Cranmer was the architect of the 39 ARTICLES OF RELIGION of the Church of England. They are the best statement of Protestant theology and doctrine I have ever found and are still printed in the BCP as historical documents even by The Episcopal Church (1979) which has stepped away from the truth of the Gospel.

Cranmer also reformed the liturgical calendar of the church by removing what he saw as Roman Catholic superstitions and fanciful stories of the lives of the saints and replacing them with the Bible. The calendar begins with Advent on November 30 and presents the Bible stories in the same order as the events of the New Testament. Dates, feasts, holy days and other commemorations all flow from the date of Easter which is recalculated every year. Structuring our worship in and around these important events in Jesus’ life draws us closer to Him.

Another wonderful gift we have from Cranmer is daily lectionary readings that cover all of scripture in one year. Equally edifying is the inclusion of MYLES COVERDALE’S (1488 – 1569) Psalter, his translation of the Psalms arranged for responsive reading in equal length for morning and evening for each day of the month. Nothing I know has kept me more aware of God’s goodness and glory than these daily readings.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: ongoing worship

Ongoing Worship is the life’s blood of the church. The BCP offers 3 recurring service used continually throughout the year: Morning and Evening Prayer and the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Morning and Evening Prayer

These services begin with the minister giving a call to worship:

THE LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. Hab. ii. 20. I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the LORD. Psalm cxxii. 1.

There follows a call to repentance and this confession of sin:

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

Then follows an absolution, psalms of praise and the reading of the lessons from the Bible. Next is the recitation of the Nicene Creed and the sermon followed by the prayers of the people and the Lord’s Prayer to which was added the doxology: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The service is closed with a General Thanksgiving or this prayer of St. Chrysostom:

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests;
Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: The Lord’s Supper

Before the BCP, people in England were used to receiving Holy Communion once a year at Easter and in only one kind, the bread. Cranmer insisted that both the wine and bread be received by everyone every week. Today the frequency is sometimes modified, but both elements are given.

The Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is built upon the structure we have seen in Morning/Evening prayer. To it other elements are added, among them:

The recitation of the Ten Commandments and these prayers:

WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy:
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
GLORY be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

These services, prayers, and praise have enriched my life greatly over the last 40 years and given me a deep sense of our Christian identity and the holiness of God, and taught me how to draw near to Him through the Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: milestones of life

21st-century church life has deformalized some of these services or discarded them altogether. But they have sustained and blessed many over the centuries and continue to do so for those who use them.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Baptism & Confirmation

Although Cranmer was a firm believer in Reformed theology, he also believed there was a place for bringing infants and children into the church. The tacit understanding was that the parents and godparents would help the child receive God’s grace and affirm this at confirmation.

ALMIGHTY and immortal God, the aid of all who need, the helper of all who flee to thee for succour, the life of those who believe, and the resurrection of the dead; We call upon thee for this Child (or this thy Servant), that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration.
Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
So give now unto us who ask; let us ‘who seek, find; open the gate unto us who knock; that this Child (or this thy Servant) may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen We had our children baptized under this rite and believe it was a manifestation of grace and blessing.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Marriage

Cranmer did not believe that Marriage was a sacrament, as the Roman Catholics do, but he afforded it a high place in God’s eyes and in the life of the church. His marriage ceremony is well-known.

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honour-able among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.
Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

What is less familiar but equally anointed is this prayer after the vows are taken.

GOD, who hast so consecrated the state of Matrimony that in it is represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church;
Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that they may love, honour, and cherish each other, and so live together in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and of peace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Childbirth

Mortality was high for women in Cranmer’s day and this rite was deemed essential. It has so faded from regular use that few Christians are even aware of it today. Would that more would avail themselves of its encouragement and blessing:

O ALMIGHTY God, we give thee humble thanks for that thou hast been graciously pleased to preserve, through the great pain and peril of child-birth, this woman, thy servant, who desireth now to offer her praises and thanksgivings unto thee.
Grant, we beseech thee, most merciful Father, that she, through thy help, may faithfully live according to thy will in this life, and also may be partaker of everlasting glory in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then may be said,

GRANT, we beseech thee, O heavenly Father, that the child of this thy servant may daily increase in wisdom and stature, and grow in thy love and service until he come to thy eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Sickness

Cranmer believed in divine healing, and so did most people of his day.

HEAR us, Almighty and most merciful God and Saviour; extend thy accustomed goodness to this thy servant who is grieved with sickness.
Visit him, O Lord, with thy loving mercy, and so restore him to his former health, that he may give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
SANCTIFY, we beseech thee, O Lord, the sickness of this thy servant; that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith, and seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Death

The black plague and “sweating sickness” were common in Cranmer’s day and took millions of lives. The fearful sentence of death upon a loved one cried out for divine comfort. The BCP gave comfort and hope and also assurance that as Jesus rose from the dead, so shall we.

The minister begins the service with these words:

I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger. We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
JESUS said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
O LORD Jesus Christ, who by thy death didst take away the sting of death; Grant unto us thy servants so to follow in faith where thou hast led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in thee, and awake up after thy likeness; through thy mercy, who livest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Final prayer

I close with this prayer from an old edition of the Book of Common Prayer that I have often used to remember my father but am here offering for Thomas Cranmer who took the Bible and fitted it for use when God’s people meet in Jesus’ name:

Almighty God, we remember this day before Thee Thy faithful servant Thomas Cranmer; and we pray that, having opened to him the gates of larger life, Thou wilt receive him more and more into Thy joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served thee in the past, he may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who rose victorious from the dead, and doth comfort us with the blessed hope of everlasting life; for to Thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal badly doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens. Amen.

—from the Book of Common Prayer

Working on this has been a great blessing to me. I can’t count how many times I said “Hallelujah” or “Praise God” as the power of the Word of God touched my heart. How blessed we are to know Jesus. How sad that so many do not. Share this with those who need Jesus and spend some time with Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. It will change your life for good and draw you into Jesus’ presence. Praise God!

Say thanks 🙌

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