The Book of Common Prayer does not replace the Bible but supplements it by organizing scripture for worship. Eighty percent of its content is directly from scripture, which is the principle authority in shaping the Anglican tradition.
The lectionary in The Book of Common Prayer ensures that much of the Bible is read aloud in church over a three year period, with the same passages read on the same days by the larger church worldwide. Additionally, a two-year cycle of scripture readings is provided to assist us in the daily discipline of worship at home as well as in church.
The first Christians adopted the practice of praying together from Judaism and its regular pattern of prayers and readings from scripture. In 1549, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, compiled The Book of Common Prayer. Drawing from ancient traditions, the Prayer Book outlines the basic needs of the church in one book: Sunday worship, daily prayer, baptism, confirmation, matrimony, and burial.
Cranmer printed the book in English rather than the traditional Latin, then made it available to the entire church – a move that empowered church members to participate more fully in worship. Previously, books about worship were exclusive to priests. Today, this remarkable book creates unity within the worldwide Anglican Church and has become part of the fabric of English literature.
The Anglican Church of North America is currently working on a new prayer book for the Province. The new prayer book will be based on the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.