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Prayer Book of the Early Christians Hardcover – February 1, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The editor and translator, John A. McGuckin, is a priest of the Orthodox Church and the Nielsen Professor of Early Christian theology and history at Union Seminary in New York and at Columbia University. He is the author of twenty scholarly works, and is internationally regarded as one of the leading expositors of ancient Christian studies today.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557257027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557257024
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When the author of Ecclesiastes penned, "On the writing of books there is no end" he had no idea what the future of publication held for prayer-books. Books on prayer abound and every year you can expect to see new books promising some new spiritual insight which will make you a better pray-er. Despite this (and seminary) I am still a neophyte at prayer and struggle, like everyone, to have regular prayer times and establish a rhythm of prayer.

What is refreshing about Prayer Book of the Early Christians is that has no new spiritual insights of any kind and it makes no promises that `reading it' will make you a better pray-er. Rather, this book draws on the wisdom of the early church and the Orthodox tradition. This is not a book to be `read' though I have done that for the purposes of this review. Rather this is a book to be prayed.

John A McGuckin is an Orthodox priest and patristic scholar. He has gathered up the pieces of this prayer-book from the richness of the Christian tradition, particularly the Christian east. After a brief introduction offering advice about prayer and the use of this book, the book unfolds in three parts. Part I presents prayers for the Ritual Offices of the day (i.e. Vespers, Compline, Matins, the first and third hours of the day). Part II contains rituals and prayer services for various occasions (traveling, the blessing of a house, prayer for the sick, grace before meals, personal repentance, etc.) Part III collects various prayers and hymns from the Ancient saints.

What I really like how this book unfolds the beauty and prayerfulness of the Orthodox tradition. If the church in the East has a gift for the whole church it is how the life of prayer penetrates their entire theological reflection.
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Format: Hardcover
The first two prayers for evening time on p.17 were pointers on the map of God's transcendence and his immanence. Seeing God as holy and set apart along with seeing him come down to Earth is a good way of both honoring what Scripture says about him, but also rightfully bringing worship to Him. Secondly, the prayers for Evening Time were close to recount the ways in which we need God's help and goodness to avoid the snares of the Evil one and the fantasy of the devil (18-19). The truth here is that we are prone to wonder but God is the one who we draw strength from to fight evil, even combating the desires within our own hearts for sin. With another reviewer, I am not willing to offer up prayers to the Holy Virgin being an evangelical Christian,yet, I was still appreciative of the way she is referred to in certain prayers like the Theotokion (28).

These prayers certainly brought me to a place of praising God that I was not accustomed to before. One of the beautiful things about many of the prayers in this book is the Trinitarian nature of them. In the prayer of St. Ioannikios we find this short prayer, "My hope is the Father. My refuge is the Son. My shelter is the Holy Spirit. O Holy Trinity, glory to you (32). The beauty of extolling the Father for his plan, for the Son in the carrying out the plan and the Holy Spirit guiding and interceding for us is an unmistakable element in these prayers.

Lastly, the prominent use of Scripture throughout these prayers, focusing in on the Psalms is a breath of fresh air. The format in which the Psalms are placed reminds us of the poetic quality of the psalms and also their inherent power for following after God in dark and desolate places.
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Format: Hardcover
When thinking about prayers, I'm sure everyone has a famous one from Church History that comes to mind. Maybe you like "Patrick's Breastplate." Or if you're less inclined to admire past saints, then Jesus' High Priestly Prayer or the Lord's Prayer probably rank pretty high on your list. Father John McGuckin must have been aware of this when putting together his little book. Rather than rehashing prayers that are common place in coffee table books and Facebook posts, McGuckin offers his readers a glance into the early Church. Formulating a familial liturgy (as opposed to a congregational one) seems to be one of the main purposes behind McGuckin's work, and I think he has hit the nail right on the head.

Starting off with some very practical advice for everyone, ranging from the experienced Catholic who grew up saying the liturgy or the novice Southern Baptist who has no liturgical experience at all, McGuckin makes entering into the morning and evening offices accessible for everyone. As someone whose experience is limited to a cursory knowledge of the Book of Common Prayer, the Prayer Book of the Early Christians has been a blessing in my home. Offering a simple way of engaging in prayer with my family, and a beautiful translation of Ancient prayers from some of the early Church Fathers, this book serves a wonderful launching pad for those looking to unite their entire household in prayer.

It should be noted that Father McGuckin comes from an Orthodox Christian background, which colors his theology and his selection of prayers from the early Church. While there are aspects of that which may been unsettling to some, as in the Hymns to the Virgin or McGuckin's suggested usage of icons, these are things that are easily accommodated to fit one's worship preference.
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