Forward Today: The rhythm of prayer book living

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator.

There are a LOT of prayer books on my shelf. (Occupational hazards of being a clergy kid, religion grad student, and now staff member at a publishing ministry.) The oldest one is this little Book of Common Prayer, here at the top. It’s worn at the edges, and features some extra decoration from a scribble-happy younger sister. This prayer book has traveled with me for a long time.

I received this BCP in my Easter basket when I was a kid. But after the Easter treats were eaten and the Easter basket was put away, the BCP went up on a shelf, mostly unused. Until I graduated from college and prepared to head out to a new city for a summer internship. When I was packing, I slipped this prayer book into my suitcase almost as an afterthought. Just in case it might come in handy.

It was during that internship, living on my own for the first time, that I really got to know the prayer book. I read through the psalms and the lectionary and realized that if I really stuck to this seven-week cycle I could write these poems on my heart. I prayed Compline in my little room. I stepped into the rhythm of prayer book living, which has sustained me in the years since.

I’ve got a new prayer book on my shelf now—Forward Movement’s new Book of Common Prayer, Gift Edition. This book is designed to be portable, just as my first little BCP was, so it can fit in a backpack or a purse or a suitcase. It’s also designed to be beautiful, because the God we praise in its pages is the maker of beautiful things. Because giving thanks to God, always and everywhere, should be a good and joyful thing.

I recently read through the prayer book on sacraments as part of an inquirer’s class. The folks reading with me, from all ages and stages of life, are all preparing for a sacramental encounter of their own. Some are being received from other traditions, exploring the rich heritage of prayer that characterizes the Episcopal Church. Some are preparing for confirmation, getting ready to claim familiar words and actions as their own. Some are preparing for baptism, or to stand up with children and godchildren to support them in their life in Christ. All of them find their place in the Book of Common Prayer.

I’m saving my newest prayer book for my three-year-old daughter, who will by God’s grace be baptized soon. It’ll stay on her shelf for now—she’s a scribbler too, and a notorious page-ripper to boot. But I’ll fill out the presentation page with her name anyway, and hold it for her until she can open it herself. Whenever and however she takes it up on her own, I hope she knows that this book—and the rhythm of faithful life it represents to me—belongs to her already. I hope and pray that she will carry that joy with her wherever she goes.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

More from our ministry:

Dig deeper into sacraments and practices: Walk in Love

Practices to sustain a life of faith: Vital Signs of Faith

Join ChurchNext’s live class with the author of Vital Signs of Faith

Check out the Top 5 Courses for Fall from ChurchNext