The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition: A Rookie Anglican Guide


Do you want to pray with the church and immerse yourself in the Bible? Then the Book of Common Prayer is for you.

But there are lots of different versions. If you crave simplicity, then consider The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition. This book can be a structure for your spiritual life. It’s a trellis on which the vines of that life can grow, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.


Let’s assume you’ve gotten your hands on a copy of the 1662 International Edition. What next? With this Rookie Anglican Guide, you’re in luck.

What’s inside those green covers?

Let’s begin with the Table of Contents. It has some things you might expect, like “The Preface,” and other things you might not even know existed, like “Forms of Prayer to Be Used at Sea.” But it’s a long list. How can we break it down?

Everything in the Table of Contents can be sorted into four categories: prep, pray, worship at church, and everything else. And these go in exactly that order.

  1. Prep

I like to cook, and one thing I like to use is a wok. But I don’t walk into the kitchen and start stir-frying. I need to get ready. Ginger needs to be peeled and sliced, chicken chopped, sesame oil and rice wine measured out. This prep phase for cooking even has a name that comes from French—mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs), which means putting everything in its place.

The 1662 International Edition starts with prep, with mise en place. That’s everything in the Table of Contents that has pages in roman numerals (pages ix-lvii). There are two prefaces, one from the 1662 revision (“The Preface”) and one that’s a century older from the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer (“Concerning the Service of the Church”). There’s also an essay on how to think about ceremonies. That’s from the English Reformer who compiled that first edition of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

The rest of this prep material is about reading the Bible. It includes tables and a calendar that can help you find the Bible readings for the day. That’s how you look up the readings and have them ready to go—mise en place—before you start to pray Morning or Evening Prayer. The tables and calendar are central to the spiritual vision of the Book of Common Prayer. If you follow them, you’ll read through almost the whole Bible in a year, and you’ll read almost all of the New Testament three times. And you’ll read the Psalms every month!

  1. Pray

The next category in the Table of Contents are things for us to pray (pages 1-48). This is where we find Morning and Evening Prayer, which are the daily foundation of a Christian life with the prayer book.

Morning and Evening Prayer both have the same structure. We start with confessing our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness. Then we praise God with the Psalms. Then we hear God’s word and respond to it in faith. Finally, we petition God for our needs and the needs of others. That’s it—confessing, praising, hearing, petitioning. It’s so incredibly simple. Yet Morning and Evening Prayer feed and nourish our souls, giving us strength for the journey day in and day out.

If you’re new to using the Book of Common Prayer, start with Evening Prayer. It’s just a tad shorter that Morning Prayer. It’s about 30 minutes, once you are familiar with it, but sometimes it’s a little longer depending on the readings. Here’s a brief Beginner’s Guide to Evening Prayer.

After you’ve used Evening Prayer a few times, you’re ready to try Morning Prayer. Here’s a Companion to Morning Prayer that will walk you through every step.

Besides Morning and Evening Prayer, what else is in the “pray” category? Well, there’s another creed of the church, called the Creed of St. Athanasius. It goes into detail on the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, and this creed is placed here because it is sometimes said during Morning Prayer.

Then there’s the Litany. J. I. Packer called this “a ten-minute prayer service” that “drills us in the art of conversation with God.”

And there’s a set of additional prayers and thanksgivings. These are especially for times of societal crisis—war, plague, civil disorder, and so on.

This “pray” category has services and prayers to come back to over and over.

  1. Worship at Church

The next category in the Table of Contents is for worship at church (pages 49-361).

It starts with prayers and readings for the Communion service. The prayers are where we find the “collect of the day” (collect, pronounced KAHL-ekt, is a kind of short prayer—the collect of the day is also used in Morning and Evening Prayer). The readings are called the “epistle” and the “gospel.”

After these come a lot of services that are led by ordained ministers: from Holy Communion to Holy Baptism, from marrying to burying. These services have the sacraments that unite us to Christ in heaven, and the rites that mark key moments in our life on earth.

And tucked away in these services is the catechism, an overview of the basic principles of the Christian faith—all in just seven pages. It goes here among these services because the catechism is part of how we get ready for the service of confirmation.

  1. Everything else

The last category in the Table of Contents has lots of other important things, but it doesn’t have a single theme (pages 362-767).

First, it has the Psalms, in the unrivaled translation of Miles Coverdale. C.S. Lewis described Coverdale and his psalm translation like this: “In beauty, in poetry, he, and St. Jerome, the great Latin translator, are beyond all whom I know.” But these Psalms aren’t just beautiful. They’re the core of Morning and Evening Prayer, and they are meant to be a life-giving fountain for the soul.

There are also Forms of Prayer to Be Used at Sea. These are a magnificent set of prayers for storms and battles—literal or metaphorical.

Next is the Ordinal, which has the services for the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons. The Ordinal lays out the Anglican theology of ministry.

This last category has the Articles of Religion, which are the “theological identity card” for Anglicans (to quote J. I. Packer again). The Articles, also called the Thirty-Nine Articles, are the definitive statement of doctrine for the Anglican tradition. They put our tradition on the map, showing that it holds to catholic doctrines like the Trinity, and Reformation doctrines like justification by faith alone.

Then there’s an afterword by the editors of the 1662 International Edition (fair warning—I’m one of them). It describes the modest changes made in this edition.

And there are appendices. These include a short sermon on justification (referenced in the Articles), lots of additional prayers from around the world, more instructions for using the prayer book, and an additional Bible reading plan.

Maybe the most useful of all of these materials at the back is the glossary. If you get puzzled by any words in the 1662 International Edition, this is the place to go.

Finally, there’s a one-page guide to following all the most common services. This guide shows you how to attend a service of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, or Holy Communion—and that it all fits on one page underscores the wonderful simplicity of the 1662 International Edition.

Where do I go next?

Want more? Are you ready for a slightly-seasoned rookie’s guide? Next year IVP is going to publish How to Use the Book of Common Prayer: A Guide to the Anglican Liturgy. That book is by Drew Keane (my co-editor of the 1662 International Edition) and me. It’s a straightforward how-to guide that assumes zero knowledge of the prayer book or the Anglican tradition.

You can also go to Book of Common Prayer (International Edition) Free Resources & FAQ, a page hosted by IVP that has lots of supplemental resources for using the 1662 International Edition as well as frequently asked questions.

The Christian church has always regarded our life on earth as a preparation for heaven, a path of pilgrimage that should be marked by prayer, worship, and hearing the word of God. The 1662 International Edition is simply a means for helping us further along on our journey. It’s for pilgrims who want to make progress.

Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Press (IVP).


Samuel Bray

Samuel L. Bray is the John N. Matthews Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. He and Drew Nathaniel Keane are coeditors of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition.

View more from Samuel Bray


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