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Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer Paperback – August 28, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an age when Protestants are recovering such disciplines as fixed-hour prayer and the liturgical calendar, it's refreshing to have a book that invites readers to rediscover relatively ordinary rituals like baptism, the Eucharist, marriage, confession and last rites. Although some of these are no longer official sacraments for Protestants, they are a crucial part of the Book of Common Prayer that is the foundation for this text. While DeSilva is no longer Episcopalian himself, he has been spiritually formed by the BCP and wants readers to join in its richly textured sacramental life. He makes valuable contributions throughout, but some chapters are less original than others, with the section on how the BCP handles death and grief the best of all. These would be an amazing resource for high church support groups on dying and bereavement. There are a few small errors (e.g., it was Mary I, not Mary Queen of Scots, who restored Catholicism to England in the 16th century), but these minor mishaps are offset by the book's strengths, especially the practical exercises that close each chapter. (Sept.)
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"As a book of mediations this is a superb introduction to the BCP as a coherent spiritual approach to Christian spiritual life in all its breadth and depth, and will be of immense benefit to both those who are familiar with the BCP and those who know little or nothing of it." (Robert D. Hughes, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care)

"In this innovative and engaging resource David deSilva invites you in to a new way of being spiritually formed through an old book that has shaped thousands of disciples through the years." (, June 2009)

"Sacramental Life is a fine exposition of the central sacramental experiences as found in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 edition." (Harry S., Book Bargains and Previews (, June 2009)

"First, deSilva does an unusually good job of communicating well and concisely. This, couple with the equally unusual feat of suggesting helpful practices at the end of each chapter makes this volume a great book to use in a small group or individual setting. The chapters are short, which make it a great daily read, and with 45 chapters, it is a great discipline for about a month and a half. If you know people who are curious about the Book of Common Prayer but altogether unfamiliar with it, this would be a decent place for them to start." (Kyle Strobel, Theology Forum (, March 24, 2009)

"Sacramental Life bridges the gap between the Book of Common Prayer and daily life, making a helpful and substantial contribution to the ever-increasing number of pilgrims who desire a meaningful life with the prayer book." (Julie Lane-Gay, Christian Century, March 24, 2009)

"The chapters in this book are short, and each has a section at the end titled "putting it into practice" giving an invitation to meditate on the material just read and to act on it." (Rachel Wheeler, The Lamplighter, February 2009)

"A must-read for anyone who worships in a liturgical church, but will be edifying for Christians from any background. It is well suited for either individual or group study." (James R. Hamrick, Bible Study Magazine, January/February 2009)

"There is much to glean from deSilva's book. The practical applications are especially helpful. Some of them are tangible expressions that could serve as powerful object lessons in a pastoral setting." (Trevin Wax, Discerning Reader (, December 16, 2008)

"Here liturgy is directly connected to our spiritual vitality, individually and communally. I can imagine this book not only being profitiable for individual spiritual growth, but any one of its four parts would form a useful resource for a study and reflection group." (Liturgy (, November 7, 2008)

"Finally, there is a book that allows a breath of fresh air into the past and present. Trustworthy in intellect and inventive in practice." (Worship Leader, October 2008)

"In an age when Protestants are recovering . . . disciplines [like] fixed-hour prayer . . . it's refreshing to have a book that invites readers to discover relatively ordinary rituals." (Publishers Weekly, July 14, 2008)

"[Sacramental Life is] written with pastoral sensitivity, and with the aim to enrich our prayer and devotional life. I heartily commend this book. It will bless your soul and energize your spiritual practices through the aid of one of the richest of all sources--the Book of Common Prayer." (Dr. Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary)

"David deSilva's Sacramental Life takes readers on a spiritual journey through the sacraments of life and new life in Christ. Grounded in careful theology and Scripture, the book is richly devotional and full of wise spiritual counsel and direction. In addition to being of great benefit to more mature Christians (especially Episcopalians and Anglicans), the book could be well used with new or inquiring church members who wish to understand and grow in their faith and devotion." (The Rt. Rev. Dr. Frederick Borsch, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles)

"David deSilva has given us a wonderful guide to spiritual development and sustenance in this book. I love the way he ties in our individual spiritual reflection with the cadences of the Book of Common Prayer and the church's liturgical life. Here is a book that moves from the gathered congregation to the individual believer and back again in a way that is not only helpful, engaging, but also faithful." (William H. Willimon, coauthor of Resident Aliens and Bishop of The United Methodist Church)

"Sacramental Life takes the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as its focal point. From this vantage point it invites us on a journey into the various and varied aspects of human experience, giving guidance and counsel for our formation into Christlikeness along the way. For all, and especially those with a liturgical interest, it offers expert guidance and wise counsel." (Richard J. Foster, founder of Renovaré and author of Celebration of Discipline and Streams of Living Water)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (August 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830835180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830835188
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David deSilva majored in English at Princeton University (AB, 1987), received a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary (1990), and completed a doctorate in New Testament studies at Emory University (1995). He has taught on the faculty of Ashland Theological Seminary since 1995 and has been named Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek since 2005. David is also ordained in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has served as an organist and choir director in Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Methodist churches since 1985. He is married to Donna Jean Heitman deSilva, with whom he shares three sons. For a complete list of publications, including journal articles and contributions to reference works, please visit his web site at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bosco Peters on December 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
Professor David deSilva is Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. He is the author of over fifteen books. Ashland Theological Seminary is part of Ashland University. It is the largest seminary in Ohio and the 12th largest seminary in the United States and Canada.

DeSilva was a member of the Episcopal Church for twenty-four years. He is ordained as a pastor in the United Methodist Church, which he describes as a daughter denomination of the Anglican Communion. He and his wife, Donna Jean, are also both on the staff of Christ United Methodist Church. His academic and pastoral experience clearly combines in this book.

DaSilva commences his book by describing the many who assume that he left the Episcopal Church in rebellion against the sterility of its liturgical tradition. "Nothing could be further from the truth", he says. "I am a person of faith today precisely because the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer gave me a language and a context for encountering God in my youth that continues to be the essential vehicles for my own spiritual formation".

His book focuses on four liturgical rites: baptism, Eucharist, marriage and burial. Each section explores the prayers, liturgies and Scripture readings of the Book of Common Prayer. Each chapter concludes with "putting it into practice" - applying the ideas through spiritual practice.

I have often explored the increasing interest in liturgy growing in protestant and evangelical contexts that, not so long ago, held the presuppositions of liturgy being sterile as described above.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark D. Eckel on December 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
David A. deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
Reviewed by Mark Eckel, Director, Mahseh Center, Lake Bruce, IN

From time to time during my professorial days at Moody Bible Institute, I would attend an Episcopalian church close by my house. I did this because I felt like such a sinner taking communion there. In that denomination partaking of the bread and wine is a very kinesthetic experience (e.g. physical movement is required). One had to stand and walk down the middle aisle in front of everyone. Kneeling at the altar, the sacraments were given to you by another without your help. Returning to my seat, the thought repetitiously came to my mind, "I am a sinner saved by grace. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am a sinner..." Often I would stop after the first four words. Physical activity dictated that I be physically, visibly reminded of my status before God. Most Evangelicals have an autonomous, individualistic approach to communion: we take the elements ourselves as they are passed. I need the bodily movement to remind me that I do nothing of myself without His aid.

And so deSilva, "We might like to think of ourselves as our own masters, which is prized among our cultural ideals . . . we seek to preserve the illusion of running our own show" (53). What is so profound about Sacramental Life is just that kind of direct application. deSilva hits me where I live with words from The Book of Common Prayer impacting every movement of life.

Relevance to daily living is consistently tactile, including touch (37), taste (82), and smell (47).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Bird on December 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
David deSilva has written a superb book that enables people to experience the spiritual treasures of the Book of Common Prayer. As someone from outside of the Anglican tradition (and deSilva himself is a United Methodist!), deSilva has helped me to discover how the BCP can be a further spiritual resource in my own devotional life and that of my family too. I found his series of devotions on baptism, eurcharist, marriage, and burial to be biblically sound and spiritually uplifting. I heartily recommend it for anyone with a desire to grow in their knowledge and love of God and his church! Two thumbs up!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jdb VINE VOICE on December 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a book I continue to go back to again and again. My most recent foray into the Sacramental Life has lasted for over two months. I like to keep certain books on my desktop not only for reading and for reflection over their contents, but just seeing them serves as a reminder of what I've read from them. This is one of those "certain" books. I like to be reminded that life is sacramental; I need to be reminded that life is sacramental, and David deSilva's writing in this work are very helpful reminders for me.

Sacramental Life uses the liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer as the framework for deSilva's exegesis and exposition on these four sacramental acts (Baptism, Eucharist, Marriage, and Burial). I'm sure there are many Christians unfamiliar with the Book of Common Prayer, especially those Christians who are outside the Protestant tradition and many inside the Protestant tradition who come from non-liturgical denominations. I was only recently introduced to the Book of Common Prayer (about seven years ago), and I've been a Christian all my life... at least as long as I can remember. Regardless of what your background or faith tradition is, there is much that can be gleaned from this wonderful treatment of these aforementioned sacraments.

The outline and form of the book is rather straight-forward with these sacraments forming four major sections of the book. Each section is comprised of multiple chapters that drill deeper into the mystery of what each sacrament represents. deSilva also shares practical applications for how we, as practicing believers, might fully engage and be formed by observing and practicing the sacraments.
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