A Walk Through the Prayer Book

Book Review: A Walk Through the Prayer Book

By

Klukas, Arnold W. A Walk Through the Prayer Book: The 2019 Book of Common Prayer Explained. Anglican House, 2023. 118 pp.

As the Anglican Church in North America celebrates its fifteenth year, its 2019 edition of the Book of Common Prayer likewise celebrates five years of use. Fittingly, Anglican House Publishers has released a helpful introduction and guide titled A Walk Through the Prayer Book.

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Think of this book as a walking tour at a museum. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide is the Rev. Dr. Arnold W. Klukas, a scholar, retired professor, and priest in the ACNA who served on the Liturgy Task Force that produced the 2019 Prayer Book. The upside of a walking tour is that we learn much from our guide, especially in his areas of particular interest. The downside is that a walking tour passes by many items too quickly.

So it is with this volume. This Walk through the Prayer Book is sometimes a stroll, sometimes a sprint. The reader’s satisfaction will depend on whether his areas of interest overlap with the guide’s focus.

Overview

In his foreword to the book, Archbishop Emeritus Robert Duncan explains that the book is written to “provide a basic understanding” of the Prayer Book, a fundamental of “what makes Anglicans ‘Anglican.'”

He then describes the three questions Klukas attempts to answer about the liturgies, especially in the first half of the book (“Worship: Daily and Sunday,” covering the Daily Office and Holy Communion services). The book’s goal is to address:

  • What is the value of such prayer?
  • How does such prayer contribute to a personal, living, and dynamic relationship with God?
  • Is this means of praying the most reliable route to a spiritual life where biblical words, phrases, and truths are “Written on the heart” for times when no book is at hand?

In addition to those answers, the book intends to offer “practical help with entering into daily and Sunday worship. Meanwhile, in the second section of the book, Klukas intends to cover “all the services and liturgies the Church provides for the life passages of believers.”

Strengths: On Worship, the Eucharist, and Baptism

Early in the text, Klukas devotes what may be the best chapter of the book to an Anglican understanding of worship. He defines worship as “the action of showing reverence or devotion to someone who rightfully deserves the honor; and for a Christian, there can be no other person or object worthy of our worship than God alone.” As he describes our service, he focuses on its particularly embodied nature:

Anglican liturgy requires the total engagement of our body, mind, and spirit… when someone unfamiliar with Anglican worship visits a Holy Communion service for the first time, two things often concern them: we seem to be tied to a book, and we never just sit still; we get up and then sit down, we kneel, and then get up again. (10)

Other compelling chapters include those on the Eucharist and on Baptism. Clearly, our guide has a love of the sacraments instituted by Christ! These chapters shine with their goldilocks amount of detail. For example, Klukas’ introduction to the Last Supper is both concise and compelling:

The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, recorded in the three synoptic gospels, is the origin of all the diverse rites that Christians do ‘in remembrance’ of him. The variety of names these services have received over two thousand years illustrates this: ‘the breaking of bread,’ the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion, the ‘Sacrifice of the Mass,’ the Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy. All these have two things in common: all use bread and win, and all use the words that Jesus spoke over these elements. (30)

Likewise, Klukas’ introduction to baptism is illuminating:

Unlike the Eucharist, which is celebrated Sunday by Sunday among Anglicans, Baptism is done only once, because it is the once for all mark of a once for all salvation. It is the entrance of the baptized person into the Body of Christ as a full member of the family of the faithful. (49)

Weaknesses: On the Daily Office & Other Liturgies

The main Daily Office chapter, on the other hand, assumes too much understanding on behalf of the reader. This is a weakness reflected in too much of the book. It gives the historical and theological background of the Daily Office and outlines the common movement shared by each office (particularly Morning and Evening Prayer). However, it doesn’t provide enough specific guidance or distinguish the theological emphases for each individual office to fully welcome the newcomer into the experience. For such a purpose, I would point someone to our Rookie Anglican Guides to the Daily Office, which covers each of these in greater depth.

Similarly, many of the other prayer book liturgies are treated in a cursory manner. We sprint past the Pastoral Rites in a single 10-page chapter. Most unfortunately, our guide avoids discussing the special liturgies of Lent and Holy Week on the grounds that “these are easy to read and understand, so we needn’t delve into them here” (92).

Assessment

A Walk Through the Prayer Book is a helpful start toward understanding the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. It gives a bird’s-eye view of each section and provides some key insights throughout. Our guide is friendly and effective in sharing what matters to him, especially on the Eucharist and Baptism.

However, not all readers will be fully satisfied. Those uninitiated to the Prayer Book may not find enough historical or theological background to feel thoroughly oriented, and those who read and study it may not find much that is new.

Ultimately, as a resource, A Walk Through the Prayer Book is a good start on a journey of Prayer Book knowledge. It just leaves room for future books—and Rookie Anglican Guides—to fill in the gap.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Disclaimer: Anglican Compass was provided with a review copy of this book by Anglican House Publishers in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.


Photo by Jacob Davis.

Published on

June 24, 2024

Author

Jacob Davis

The Rev. Jacob Davis is the editor of Anglican Compass. He is a priest in the Diocese of Christ Our Hope and lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as assisting clergy at Grace Anglican Church and as a spiritual director.

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