Image_Title Page_A Booke of Christian Prayers

The title page of Day’s 1578 Booke of Christian Prayers

Richard Day (1552-c.1606) briefly served as a priest in the Church of England in the latter part of the 16th century. Prior to his ordination in 1580, Day worked with his father John Day in the printing business. After serving as a parish priest for about four years, Day left clerical ministry around the time of his father’s death in 1584.

The father and son apparently had many disputes over their personal and professional lives, and Richard Day may have entered the ministry as an attempt to please his father John after he had been punished for violating the rules of the printing guild known as the Stationers’ Company. John Day was so alienated from his son that he attempted to disinherit him, although Richard successfully sued for his inheritance rights upon his father’s death. Little is known of Richard Day’s later life, although he seems to have done nothing significant either in the church or the printing trade.

Day’s biography is one that is criss-crossed with disappointment and family dysfunction. Even so, beauty can come out of such a life. In 1578, Day published a collection of prayers entitled, A Booke of Christian Prayers, collected out of the auncie[n]t writers, and best learned in our tyme, worthy to be read with an earnest mynde of all Christians, in these daungerous and troublesome dayes, that God for Christes sake will yet still be mercyfull vnto vs.

This work is typically referred to as simply A Booke of Christian Prayers or Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer Book.

Day’s collection is remarkable for a number of reasons. The Elizabethan language of the prayers is wonderful for those willing to sit with it and allow it to seep into your mind and heart. From an historical point of view, I think Day’s collection also shows what was happening to English Protestant religion, as the Book of Common Prayer was slowly but surely beginning to etch its distinctive pattern of liturgy and worship on the English people. The tradition of the Church of England since the mid-16th century has been a liturgical form of worship committed to the spiritual power of word. You get the sense of that from Day, even as early as 1578.

I have been reading through Day’s Booke of Christian Prayers and will be sharing some individual prayers from it in the coming days. I will modernize the spelling of words to keep it from being distracting, but otherwise I’ll let the Elizabethan cadences stand on their own.

Let me close this opening post on Day by sharing the words he offers as “The Preface, or preparation to prayer”–

O Lord, my good God, and Father, 
blessed be thy name forever:
dispose my heart, open my lips, and guide me by thy Holy Spirit,
to a true acknowledgement of all my sins, 
that my prayer may be heard of thee,
in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ,
So be it.

[For another look at Day’s Booke of Christian Prayers, see this review on the Book Tryst blog.]