Welcome to Saturday Book Review time! On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value. Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.
A Time to Pray is a pocket-sized devotional book, in the same supplementary category as Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, just with less stuff, simpler content, and broader churchmanship appeal. Its purpose, as I understand it, is to introduce people to Prayer Book worship without dropping the whole BCP on them right away. Perhaps for children not yet ready to push through the whole daily office, or adults who are intrigued by the liturgy but not yet convinced.
Unlike the aforementioned Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, very little of this book is original content. The first 75 pages reprint the Family Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Order for Evening Worship, Compline, and Reconciliation of a Penitent services right from the 1979 BCP. After that follows a collection of prayers, a few of which are not found in that Prayer Book, a selection of Psalms and Canticles, and some Bible readings. In short, this could serve as a miniature Prayer Book & Bible combination for simplified Offices of worship. If someone, for whatever reason, is unable to handle an actual Prayer Book and Bible, this is a neat resources of basics to get them started.
Because of its brevity and simplicity, there isn’t really any room for significant theological bias, so the fact that it was produced by the Episcopalians is not an issue. Liturgically, though, it is somewhat incompatible with the 2019 Prayer Book tradition; our Psalm and Canticles have updated translations, our Family and Minor Offices are a little different. Yes, the content and wordings are very similar, but if this is meant to be a stepping stone toward a prayer book, it’s a step towards a prayer book different from our own, and will result in some awkward little shifts that tend to annoy people once they’ve “learned” one version of a particular piece of liturgy.
The ratings in short:
It’s small and simple. The only point against its usability is the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is only printed on pages 42 and 43, so whatever liturgy you’re using you have to flip over there if you haven’t memorized it. I mean, I’m sure you‘ve memorized it, but the newcomer might not, or at least not the version we use.
Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
The most you can get out of this book are extra (or Minor) Offices of worship with a limited list of Scripture lessons. It’s a baby step toward Anglican spirituality, rather than an actual expression of Anglican spirituality. And because of that it is of extremely limited use to us.
Reference Value: 1/5
As mentioned above, there is almost nothing in here that isn’t already in the 1979 Prayer Book. One or two particular prayers may be unique here, so it’s worth looking through them briefly. Otherwise, there’s nothing new to learn or draw from this book.
In short, this isn’t a book worth getting. I only have a copy because someone had a small stack of them and wanted to hand out extras. It’s a neat idea, and could be the inspiration for a new Office booklet in the ACNA’s 2019 BCP context, but in itself is not particularly remarkable.