There is an old saying that goes something like this, “What was once a man’s conviction becomes his sons habit, which then becoming his grandsons throwaway.” The point of the saying is that if a conviction is not passed on as a conviction it will eventually fade away from a family. Having grown up within a nominal Roman Catholic heritage I became familiar with liturgical Christian worship but it was never a conviction of mine. With your grandparents having died before they could pass much on to me I was at a disadvantage to understand why my father chose to convert to Roman Catholicism, the faith in which my mother was raised. When I understood and accepted the gospel as an 18 year old I reasoned that since I did not find a relationship with Jesus in the Roman Catholic Church that I could find him in Protestant churches. I have worshipped in charismatic churches, Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, Methodist churches and Lutheran churches. None of them were as meaningful to me and as helpful to me as what is called the “Anglican Way”. The greatest revelation I have had in experiencing different forms of Christian worship is that followers of Jesus are not to worship as they prefer but as God would prefer. And God has a preference on how He would like to be worshipped. Below is a catechism of sorts that I am passing along to you so that, if you so choose, what is my conviction would become your conviction. It is a beginning point.
Why do we practice “formal” (liturgical) worship when we worship corporately?
There are many examples in the Bible of God rejecting people’s worship. The worship of Cain and the worship of Eli’s sons first come to mind. That means that God has standards. He first reveals what His standards are when He calls Israel to corporately worship Him (see Exodus 24). Those standards include the reading of God’s Word, the people responding in unison and the eating of a meal. The Book of Common Prayer follows those standards while also using standards practiced in Temple and synagogue worship.
Why do we read formal prayers? Are not extemporaneous prayers more “heart felt”?
Our formal prayers use the wording of Holy Scripture because we believe it is best to pray God’s Words back to Him for His Words are holy and infallible and ours are not. While Book of Common Prayer worship does not forbid extemporaneous prayers and we are free to add them to our worship, we believe that read prayers are more theologically careful and can become very heart felt.
Does not stating the same prayers over and over again cause them to become robotic rather than truly understood and believed?
While it is true that the things we do on a regular basis are susceptible to becoming so routine that we fail to pay close attention to what we are saying, we see such a possibility as a heart issue and not caused by the prayers, chants and recitations themselves. It is the responsibility of every Christian who worships to keep attentive and focused on what is being prayed, sung or confessed.