Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer
Publisher: IVP Books
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
During the last of my five years in Romania, I went through a particularly dry time of prayer and communion with God. I had a hard time praying regularly, and when I did pray, I felt as if I had little to say.
A friend gave me The Book of Common Prayer in hopes that it might revitalize my prayer life. Despite my initial skepticism toward written prayers, I must admit that the prayer book helped me tremendously. I discovered that written prayers infused new requests into my prayer life, and the words on the page widened my heart – helping me to adopt a more expansive prayer vision. The Book of Common Prayer even revitalized and re-formed my spontaneous prayers.
Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer by Daniel deSilva takes the reader through The Book of Common Prayer as a method of spiritual formation. Part of IVP’s Formatio publishing line, Sacramental Life leads the reader to a deeper spiritual walk with Jesus by taking us through the riches of the Anglican prayer book.
The book is divided into four sections: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Christian Marriage, and Christian Burial. Each section has a series of readings. Each reading ends in a practical application. All in all, there are 45 readings, making this an ideal book to read daily during a season of spiritual reflection.
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.
As a Baptist, my problems with Sacramental Life are theological in nature. There is much to appreciate in deSilva’s comments on baptism. Yet, as expected, I part ways with deSilva on the mode of baptism as well as the persons qualifed for baptism.
Likewise, I take issue with several of deSilva’s theological affirmations. For example, deSilva sees patriarchy as a sinful system of injustice (and therefore, in the Marriage section, he subsumes the wife-submission texts under the principle of mutual submission). He also affirms that Christ is the only way to the Father, but then undercuts that belief by encouraging prayer for God to have mercy on the dead.
Despite occasional unbiblical speculations and left-leaning presuppositions, most of the counsel in Sacramental Life is theologically sound and spiritually beneficial. I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of the book and the emphasis on returning to the past for spiritual formation in the present. The book succeeded in increasing my appreciation for The Book of Common Prayer, even if Sacramental Life is not a book I would heartily recommend for all readers.