The Book of Common Prayer (1662) is one of the most beloved liturgical texts in the Christian church, and remains a definitive expression of Anglican identity today. It is still widely used around the world, in public worship and private devotion, and is revered for both its linguistic and theological virtues. But the classic text of the 1662 prayer book presents several difficulties for contemporary users, especially those outside the Church of England. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition gently updates the text for contemporary use. State prayers of England have been replaced with prayers that can be used regardless of nation or polity. Obscure words and phrases have been modestly revised―but always with a view towards preserving the prayer book’s own cadence. Finally, a selection of treasured prayers from later Anglican tradition has been appended. The 1662 prayer book remains a vital resource today, both in the Anglican Communion and for Christians everywhere. Here it is presented for continued use for today’s Christians throughout the world.
The Classic Prayer Book for the 21st Century
Liturgical renewal has recently taken center stage among Anglicans and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in particular has been much in the spotlight.
In 2018 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (Resolution A068) invited Bishops to “engage worshiping communities in experimentation and the creation of alternative texts” — that is, alternatives to the 1979 — opening the door to the rediscovery of old liturgies as much as to the development of new ones.
GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration on the Global Anglican Future affirmed “the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer.”
The 2019 Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church in North America calls the 1662 Prayer Book “Anglicanism’s sine qua non,” noting that at “the beginning of the 21st century, global reassessment of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662″ recognizes it “as ‘the standard for doctrine, discipline, and worship.’”
Even its 16th-century English, which many in the mid-20th century felt to be a serious liability, is now attracting a younger generation to the classic Prayer Book in the 21st century. Nonetheless spelling and punctuation are occasionally unfamiliar or difficult. Some words have become obscure even to lovers of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible and it was with these concerns in mind that Samuel Bray and Drew Keane have prepared a new edition of the 1662 for use outside England. It aims to make the classic prayer book as usable as possible for a new generation of worshippers not only in America but around the world, without sacrificing its beauty, simplicity, and doctrinal clarity.
This edition has been endorsed by the US Prayer Book Society, bishops and clergy in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of North American, and many Anglican leaders around the world, It provides polity-neutral state prayers, updates obsolete spelling and punctuation, and modestly revises some of the more strikingly obsolete language — all without breaking from the robustness, rhythm, or register of Cranmer’s prose or Coverdale’s psalms
“The Prayer Book—in the classic edition of 1662—has been attacked, denigrated, dismissed, damned with faint praise, patronized, patted on the head, and torn in shreds. It’s too Protestant, it’s too Catholic, it’s a typical Anglican muddle, it does not express the new insight of the modern age, it’s not open to the Spirit, it’s not relevant. Yet all these cantankerous and often sophistical cavillations fall away when you pray according to the rule of prayer it sets forth with an open heart and an open mind. What then meets you in these pages is a pure scriptural teaching, deeply embedded in the catholic tradition, turned into the language of prayer, and in the corporate action of liturgy, with a craftmanship that is quietly breathtaking. Its prose is not Tudor but timeless, not purple but plain in its elegance (simplex munditiis); and in its clarity, dignity, and quiet beauty it carries the weight of conviction as almost nothing else does. That is why it survived the Marian reaction, the Puritan interregnum, and the diktats of modern liturgists; that’s why it will encourage and embolden the faithful in the new dark ages of skepticism and hostility to religion. Though this prayer book came out of the Church of England, it belongs not to the English, nor even to Anglicans, much less to Anglophiles (fruity accents and whatnot)—as this edition makes clear, it is a prayer book for English-speaking Christians throughout the world.”
—Gavin Dunbar, rector of St. John’s Church, Savannah, Georgia (the Episcopal Church), and president of the Prayer Book Society of the USA
“Some eighty million Anglicans have reason to rejoice in the publication of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, International Edition. It is masterfully edited by competent and judicious scholars. The 39 Articles, the Homily on Justification, a glossary, and abundant, well-chosen prayers are included. It is virtually an Anglican DNA from which we can weigh the subsequent Prayer Books developed over the years. It will be a treasure to own and a delight to use.”
—C. FitzSimons Allison, twelfth bishop of South Carolina, retired
“The editors of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, International Edition, are to be congratulated on making every effort to preserve the substance and form of traditional common prayer in a manner accessible to the widest possible community of Anglican worshippers. The rhythm, meter, and musicality of the language, so critically important for liturgical expression, have been preserved intact. The editors’ discerning decision ‘to update the language of rubrics most; prayers less; and Psalms, canticles, and biblical texts least of all’ is admirable indeed, and strikes just the right balance of minimal but acceptable modification. ‘O worship the Lord in beauty of holiness. Let the whole earth stand in awe of Him.’”
—Torrance Kirby, McGill University
“This project is very worthwhile because it reminds us of the lasting significance of the Book of Common Prayer, which represents both continuity with what went before and what was new. Common prayer in the vernacular was certainly new! We have gotten used to it now so that even the most resistant ecclesial traditions have accepted it, but it was the Reformation which began it all. The different ways in which the Prayer Book was adopted and adapted for use in widely differing cultures and contexts alerts us to its openness to worship appropriate for particular peoples and cultures. Cranmer wanted his Prayer Book to be centered on Scripture and to engage every sense of the worshiper. Both the centrality of Scripture and the needs of the worshipers are taken into account. The significance of the Prayer Book, great as it is for Anglicans, is not limited to them. Its services have had a huge impact on many different church traditions and continue to do so. Long live the BCP!”
—Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, president of Oxford Centre for Training, Research Advocacy and Dialogue
“This splendid new edition of the Book of Common Prayer, adapted for international contemporary use, opens up a unique liturgical treasure for the benefit of all Christians and all nations.”
—Catherine Pickstock, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge
“The Book of Common Prayer has kept its place at the center of Anglican identity in a remarkable way, considering the long and kaleidoscopic history of the churches that use it. This latest presentation of its riches is, like the original, marked by judicious common sense, but also by a sure instinct for how its many virtues can elegantly be augmented by the practice of later centuries. It is to be welcomed as a gift to Anglicans worldwide: not a trophy of antique display but a practical framework for everyday worship.”
—Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor emeritus of the history of the church, University of Oxford, and author of Thomas Cranmer: A Life
“The official prayer book of the Church of England remains the revised version of 1662. And beyond the United Kingdom, the 1662 edition continues to wield enormous influence in the Anglican Communion as well as in other churches around the world. Believers who still wish to pray from this time-tested prayer book now have a gorgeously produced, reader-friendly edition with which to do so. A greater gift for lovers of the Book of Common Prayer can hardly be imagined.”
—Wesley Hill, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania
“I am privileged to write and commend the use of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, together with the ordinal attached to the same, remains the standard for Anglican tradition and worship. I encourage the use of this international edition in both public and private devotions. In addition to the rich liturgy of the prayer book, I commend the use of the prayers that are found in the appendix, especially the prayers for the spread of the gospel and for those who are persecuted. My own life and ministry have been fashioned by the doctrine and order in the Book of Common Prayer 1662, which remains a treasure for Christians of every generation.”
—Bishop Julian Dobbs, Anglican Diocese of the Living Word