Inwardly Digest

I wrote Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life between 2012 and 2014 and it was published by Forward Movement in September of 2016.

This book was grew out of an experience of frustration. I have been in many Episcopal churches because my family has moved around a lot through the course of our educational careers, and because my wife spent many years as an Associate Priest in various parishes. In many of the churches, I would observe the rector teaching adult education classes on the Book of Common Prayer. Unfortunately, many of them taught the prayer book to their congregations following the exact same way that they had been taught in seminary—by pulling out Marion Hatchett’s Commentary on the American Prayer Book. Now—don’t get me wrong—this is a fine work, but Hatchett’s purpose was to look at the historical and literary background of the prayer book and to trace the literary history of its texts. While this is important information, it does not address the basic questions that most regular folks want to know about the prayer book: How does this book and its contents help me know and love God and my neighbor?

That’s the question that I started with here. This is not a history of the prayer book or an account of the literary history of its texts. Instead, it’s a book on the spirituality of the prayer book. I do inevitably touch on matters of history and literary composition, but that’s because these points matter for how we pray, not just how we think or how we categorize these liturgies amongst others.

The work falls into four major parts. I start out by locating the prayer book within liturgical spirituality. So many Christian churches use liturgy, and so many are consciously and deliberately liturgical in nature, but rarely do we take the time to figure out what this means and how (and why!) liturgy “works.” As a result, I begin by devoting the first chunk of chapters to thinking about liturgical spirituality, its characteristics and disciplines, and how the prayer book fits into all of that. From there, I identify three main elements that establish the prayer book as a rule of life: a structure for inhabiting a certain kind of spiritual life. The first of these is the Calendar, the second is the Daily Office, and the third is the Holy Eucharist. For each of these elements, I offer a basic introduction, talk about how and where these things actually show up in the prayer book, and then I focus on one particular aspect of them.

To date, I think this is my favorite book. It brings together my deep passion for liturgical spirituality and connects it with the practical spiritual lives of regular people. This wasn’t written to be a scholarly book, but one that can speak to a wide variety of people. It has been used so far in adult forums, in Lenten series, in Confirmation classes, and in youth groups.

Take a look and see what you think!