on November 21, 2010
There are many compilations of prayers out there: this is one of the better ones. While I am a Christian and am most interested in Christian prayers, approximately a third of the book is taken up with prayers of other religions: Jewish, Indian, Buddhist, Chinese, Zoroastrian, Greek and Roman, Baha'i, Primal, and Japanese. While this is a strength of the work in that it lends it a degree of comprehension, it also makes the work too much a work that tries to be all things to all people.
Having said this, I appreciate the diversity, especially of the Christian prayers that are included. The prayers are taken from different historical eras, as well as different parts of the world. The Christian prayers are taken from places as diverse as China, India, Ghana, Iran, Zaire, Taiwan, Nigeria, Polynesia, Gaelic, and Negro spirituals.
Also intriguing and valuable is the diversity of the prayers represented by individuals such as Kierkegaard, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Mother Theresa, St. Patrick, Sir Thomas More, Samuel Johnson, James Clerk Maxwell (yes, the scientist!), Edmund Spencer, Christina Rossetti, Henry VI, Pope John XXIII, Francis Bacon, C.S. Lewis, Johann Kepler (the astronomer), and George MacDonald. The host of early and medieval church writers that one would expect in such a volume are also well-represented, as well as those from the Reformed, Lutheran, and Anglican traditions.
This kind of diversity is wonderful, but it also means that some of the best prayers of the centuries are omitted in the interest of diversity. While these prayers may be accessible through a variety of other sources, it would have been nice to have seen them included as well in this volume. Since two-thirds of the book is Christian anyway, it would be a great benefit to have a volume called The Oxford Book of Christian Prayer (and then separate volumes for other major religions). In spite of some limitations, this is an excellent source to find more than 1000 prayers that will assist you in your life of prayer.
George Appleton, the editor, has laid out the prayers in this format:
I. Prayers of Adoration
II. Prayers from the Scriptures (a particularly welcome section!)
III. Prayers of Christians: Personal and Occasional
This section (by far the longest) is particularly fascinating and ingenious since Appleton has organized it according to the phrases from the Lord's Prayer. Those looking for prayers for specific issues will most likely find them under one of the following headings from Section III (or those in Section IV):
"Our Father" - Dependence
"Who Art in Heaven" - Affirmation
"Hallowed Be Thy Name" - Blessing and Thanksgiving
"Thy Kingdom Come" - Longing: Seeking, Doing, Serving, Peace
"Thy Will Be Done" - Dedication, Obedience
"As It Is In Heaven" - Guidance; Acceptance
"Give Us This Day" - Daily; Graces
"Forgive Us Our Trespasses" - Penitence
"As We Forgive" - Relationships
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation" - Right Living
"Deliver Us From Evil" - Protection, Suffering, Compassion
"For Thine Is The Kingdom" - Devotion, Contemplation, Gifts of the Spirit, Sacraments
"For Ever and Ever" - Death and Eternity, The Virgin, Martyrs, and Saints, Blessings
IV. Prayers of the Church
This section is also divided up in a brilliant and useful way: by the phrases of the Apostles' Creed. It is also the second longest section.
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth" - Praises to God, the Hallowing of Time
"And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord" - The mysteries of the incarnate in the Church's year
"I believe in the Holy Ghost" - the gift and promise of the Father, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Pentecost, prayers for the continual presence of the Holy Spirit, His gifts and fruits
"The holy Catholic Church" - baptism and confirmation, priesthood and ministry, forms of life consecrated by the Church, prayers for all men and women, the Sacrament of Eucharist, the great thanksgiving prayer, before and after communion, penitence and forgiveness, prayers for healing and restoration
"The Communion of Saints, The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting" - prayers for the dead and dying, the angels and saints, life in the Kingdom
V. Prayers of Listening (this is a very short section)
VI. Prayers From Other Traditions of Faith (those listed above)