But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Dating as it stands from 1662, our Prayer Book is in all essentials the work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Most churchmen know (for the Prayer Book prefaces Concerning the Service of the Church and Of Ceremonies tell us) that when Cranmer reshaped the traditional services, his aim was threefold.
If was to make the Anglican worship congregational (hence the title, The Book of Common Prayer common means communal); simple (hence the dropping of pre-Reformation ceremonial); and edifying (hence the prominence of Scripture-reading, psalm-singing, and exhortation). Less often seen, however, is the fact that Prayer Book worship is also a monument to Cranmers concern that Anglican worship should be evangelical; that is, a setting forth in liturgy of the Gospel.
In fact, as Cranmer grasped, only evangelical worship can be edifying. For edification (literally, building up) means the creating and deepening of Christian experience within the churchs fellowship. The sole means whereby the Spirit of God produces Christian experience is the Gospel of Christ, declared audibly in word and visibly by sacraments. Christian worship, therefore, must embody the Gospel, and be so designed as to lead worshippers into a renewed experience of its power.
Sin, Grace, Faith
To join in a service of worship is to be taken on a journey through a prescribed series of thoughts and actions. How did Cranmer secure evangelical worship? By routing his regular services via a sequence of three themes: first, the detecting and confessing of sin; second, the announcing of grace, in Gods promise to pardon and restore the penitent through Christ; third, the exercising of faith, first in believing Gods promise and trusting Him for pardon, and then in acts of praise, testimony, intercession, and obeying instruction, all based on the prior restoring of fellowship with God through forgiveness. All the main Prayer Book services have this built-in evangelical design.
See this in Morning and Evening Prayer. First comes penitence. We have erred and strayed there is no health in us Restore thou them that are penitent. Next, the good news of grace is proclaimed, calling us to faith: God pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel. So now we say the Lords Prayer, as a plea for pardon and power against sin henceforth: forgive us our trespasses deliver us from evil.
The psalm-singing that follows thus becomes what biblical praise always is, praise for mercy received: I believe confesses Jesus Christ our Lord as our own personal Saviour; we pray to God with boldness, as His adopted children, and we learn from the lessons and sermon in a spirit of filial obedience and gratitude. This is evangelical worship.
Who will find such services dull? Only the unconverted!
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