Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have relied on set forms of prayer to order their worship of God. The first Book of Common Prayer, published in 1549 by the bishops of the Church in England, sought to bring various ancient, historic patterns of prayer together in a single volume in the vernacular language of the people. Ever since, Anglicans around the world – those churches that trace their roots to the Church of England – have relied on prayer books in their worship. Amid significant theological, cultural, and political diversity, the principle of common prayer has provided a unified and unifying language capable of bridging difference.
The current version of the Book of Common Prayer used in the Episcopal Church was produced in 1979. Not only do Episcopalians use the Book of Common Prayer for the conduct of public worship, however; it is also the guide for private prayer and the source of most of our theology. It is a way of life; the particular way of life in which Episcopalians participate in the drama of redemption.