“Within the last two decades, the Lutheran Church in the United States, and perhaps all Christendom in North America, has seen two tendencies in worship. One tendency is to make worship as accessible as possible to modern man, for the sake of mission. This tendency has led to wholesale or partial abandonment of historic western liturgical forms and has often neglected liturgical song, making worship music the business of a band or song leader. Music and text have striven for simplicity.
The other tendency has perhaps arisen as a result of this simplification of the liturgy. Awakened by the excesses of the former tendency, many have sought meaning and edification in the classical liturgical forms of the Lutheran Church. As the Lutheran liturgical heritage is rooted firmly in western catholic liturgy, they have sought to reappropriate for themselves everything edifying, everything beautiful, everything solemn from the history of our church. Whereas the former tendency strives for simplicity, the latter tendency strives for transcendence and reverence. It is out of this latter, liturgical tendency within the Lutheran Church, and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in particular, that The Brotherhood Prayer Book was born.
In 2001-2002, while studying abroad in Oberursel, Germany, the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes discovered a book entitled Breviarium Lipsiensae: Tagzeitengebete, published by the Evangelical Lutheran Prayer Brotherhood (Evangelisch-Lutherische Gebetsbruederschaft). Dr. Mayes subsequently attended a retreat in Germany organized by this Brotherhood, and he realized that he had stumbled upon a liturgical treasure: a breviary pure in doctrine and with a high degree of fidelity to the historic, liturgical tradition – but, of course, in German. He had seen nothing like this in English. The English-language breviaries he had come across were either tainted with impure doctrine or bore little resemblance to the historic liturgy.
Upon returning to the United States, Dr. Mayes began to pray and chant the liturgy from this Breviarium with Rev. Michael Frese, a fellow student at Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne and also a former student of the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel. It was at Rev. Frese’s instigation that a new project was undertaken: the creation of a Lutheran, liturgical resource in English on par with the German Breviarium. For the next two years, Dr. Mayes and Rev. Frese worked to develop The Brotherhood Prayer Book, using the Breviarium as well as other sources for reference. Rev. Frese focused on publicity and the conversion of texts from German to English while Dr. Mayes served as general editor and musician, using his ear for music to fit the English words to music based on Latin Gregorian Chant.
The text of the Psalms and Canticles is from the King James Version, a translation which has been a classic of the English language for 400 years. Gregorian Chant was chosen for the music due to its beauty, antiquity, and reverence. No other form of music has been the carrier of Sacred Writ for so long a time. Experience teaches that Gregorian Chant imposes very little of a foreign mood on the text of Holy Scripture, making it conducive to reverence. For those who are unfamiliar with Gregorian Chant or who wish to listen and learn, Emmanuel Press also offers a companion MP3 CD which contains over 450 tracks of chants from The Brotherhood Prayer Book.
One characteristic that makes this prayer book unique is how comprehensive it is. Containing the entire Daily Office (Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline); all 150 Psalms pointed for chanting; pointed weekday, seasonal, and Saint’s Day Propers, and much more, it is truly a resource that can stand alone for a rich devotional life. Additionally, Compline is also offered in German and Latin.
Finally, as Dr. Mayes explains in a 2004 article entitled “Daily Prayer Books in the History of German and American Lutheranism”(.pdf):
The Brotherhood Prayer Book is marked by Confessional Lutheran integrity. It does not seek to be ecumenical, Roman, or Eastern, but only Lutheran. And we are confident that since its doctrine is none other than that of the Holy Scriptures, this work will appeal also to those beyond the confines of the Lutheran Church. Unlike other “Lutheran” liturgical materials, The Brotherhood Prayer Book respects the teaching of the Lutheran Church regarding the invocation of the saints, and in selecting saints for commemoration does not let the Zeitgeist determine what orthodoxy is, but only the Spirit of the Lord as He speaks in Holy Scripture and as the doctrine of Scripture is confessed in the Lutheran Confessions. We believe it to be a faithful contribution to the long history of Christian prayer, and we are happy to dedicate this work to the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that it will be a blessing to all who use it.”