A few years ago, a bunch of activist-types and a bunch of prayer-warriors got together to create a prayer book with the goal of bringing together the Bible and the newspaper. We were all convinced that prayer and action cannot be divorced from each other, and that Jesus and justice have to kiss. So we formed a team of liturgy experts, church leaders, grassroots organizers, and justice activists, and we all began plotting goodness together. After a long and expectant labor, we just gave birth to a little book and web resource called Common Prayer.
Common Prayer is a book for folks who love God and want to make the world a better place. Whether you are over-churched or under-churched, a proud evangelical, a recovering evangelical, or not evangelical at all; whether you are high-church, low-church, or no-church; a skeptic or a Pentecostal; whether you are a political activist, political agnostic, or a political misfit; whether you have found a community or have burnt out on community -- we had you in mind as we created Common Prayer.
Common Prayer is a tool to help the whole church pray together.
It's for families to use together, for small groups, even for whole congregations. It's for students to use in their dorms and for co-workers to gather around on a break at work. We hope that this little project will help communities, nonprofits, movements, and ministries breathe together as one -- knowing that we can do more together than we can on our own.
There are morning prayers for each day of the year where we look at "This Day in History" and remember landmark events like Rwanda's genocide, Mandela's release from prison, the bombing of Nagasaki, the assassination of Oscar Romero. It is a way of remembering history together -- both the glimpses of heaven that we want to celebrate and the terrible things we dare not forget.
Common Prayer also has a midday prayer folks can pray together at work or school. They are simple enough to memorize. And there are evening prayers for each night of the week so families and small groups can say goodnight to God and to each other. Throughout the book we recommend books and films. We also suggest some holy habits to try out. And the whole thing is sprinkled with original artwork, new icons for a new day.
Common Prayer is also about discovering new heroes -- not just applauding folks who have died in wars, but celebrating people who have lived for God and suffered for goodness. We list a hundred or so "saints" throughout the year, reminding us of some of the heroes and she-roes of the faith. And just because hymnals are in danger of extinction, it doesn't mean we should stop singing. We've complied about 50 of the greatest hits of the church from the centuries and put them into a little songbook. You will find old spirituals and freedom songs, classic hymns and sing-a-longs, Taize chants and timeless benedictions. We're not just talking about classic '80s CCM, but stuff that's from the 800s -- songs and prayers that have lasted through the centuries.
Maybe you can tell -- we're excited. Dozens of people have been working together on this project for years. Common Prayer is a labor of love by communities, for communities. So we want to celebrate it together in our communities and in yours. During the first week of December, more than 150 Common Prayer Parties are scheduled in communities across the United States and in 12 other countries. Folks will gather to pray and sing together as the Christian community around the world starts our new year ('Advent,' we call it). 1,000 folks will be able to take home free copies of the book. So, please consider yourself invited.
Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of God's Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel, a speaker, and new monastic who's put down roots in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, North Carolina.