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. It took me a couple of times through each set of prayers to find a rhythm that fits my home, but it was a worthwhile endeavor.
While working my way through McGuckin’s book, one of the early Church prayers really caught my attention. Saint John Damascene’s “Evening Hymn of the Resurrection,” penned sometime around the 8th century, was a beautiful prayer that I have sought to incorporate into my nightly routine. I’d like to share a bit of it with you:
Come, my people, let us sing a hymn
To glorify his resurrection from the dead.
He is our very God
And has redeemed the World
From all the Enemy’s deceit.
That’s a powerful way to close out a day. Overall, this book is one I would suggest all Christians keep on their bookshelf at home, right next to the Book of Common Prayer and Mere Christianity (and maybe The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards, if you’re really holy). Father McGuckin’s work will not disappoint.