The Book of Common Prayer

Anglicans hold the Book of Common Prayer as the central point of unity within the Anglican Communion. At Christ Church, all our services follow the text and instructions contained in this book. It therefore plays an integral part in our celebrations including baptism, communion and worship.

This page is designed to give a brief history of the Book of Common Prayer. If you have any further questions, please speak to one of our Priests, who will be more than happy to answer them for you.


The Book of Common Prayer was complied using the theological principle of “lex orandi lex credenda” (law of prayer determines the law of belief). Originally published in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI, the book was a product of two important historic events – the English Reformation, and the break with Rome.

The Book of Common Prayer was the first prayer book to outline the liturgical services of worship used by the Church of England and greater Anglican Communion, as well as the rites and ceremonies of the Church, including communion, ordination, baptism, marriage and the Articles of Faith (which outlines the Anglican belief). Many editions  of the Book of Common Prayer contain a selection of popular hymns known as Hymns Ancient and Modern.

It also contains a set out in full the Epistle and Gospel readings for the Sunday Communion Service, set Old Testament and New Testament readings for daily prayer,  Psalms and canticles.

An interesting fact: The book was revised in 1552 under the editorial hand of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury but it never came into use as in the same year, King Edward VI died and his half-sister Mary, a Roman Catholic became sovereign of Britain and banned the use of the book.

On Queen Mary’s death, a new revision of the book was published and revised in 1662. It is this edition that has remained the official prayer book of the Church of England, although in the 21st century.

An alternative book called Common Worship has displaced the Book of Common Prayer at most English parish churches. Yet the Book of Common Prayer still appears in churches inside and outside the Anglican Communion in over 50 different countries and in over 150 different languages, a result, in no small part, to the expansion of the British Empire.

An interesting fact: The full name for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is “The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons.”

Thus the Book of Common Prayer remains a gracious gift given to all in the Anglican Communion, to aid in the celebration and understanding of the Lord and Jesus Christ.