Publicans  Prayer Book 4th ed.  Boston: Sophia Press, 2020. pp. 1096. 

This is truly one of the best prayer books for Eastern Christians I have ever run across. I owned the third edition of this book and I was happy to see the new fourth edition being published after a long delay (there is a pandemic out there you know!). The publisher of the Publicans Prayer Book, Sophia Press (not to be confused with the similarly sounding Sophia Institute Press), is affiliated with the Greek Catholic Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts. It publishes a wide assortment of high quality liturgical books, historical information about the Melkite Catholic Church, prayer books and other materials. It is certainly worthwhile to visit its website and browse the current product catalog. 

The most noteworthy feature (among many noteworthy features!) of the fourth edition is the contents have been vastly expanded. The Publicans Prayer Book now contains additional material such as the canons of the Twelve Great Feasts, the Service of the Twelve Psalms, and an expanded set of prayers for the deceased. This expanded material supplements the previous outstanding content that included many favorites such as the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, the Paschal Canon and the Paschal Hours. Even though the laity is the apparent audience of this book, it can also be profitably used by Eastern Christian clergy as well. Eastern diocesan clergy who are often married and involved of necessity in worldly affairs are not required to pray the Divine Office every day since it is immense and extremely time consuming.  This book provides so many selections from the Daily Office that even professional clergy would be hard pressed to find time to use all of the prayers contained in this book on a weekly, not to mention a daily basis. Indeed, one of the strengths of using this prayer book is the variety it introduces into the daily prayer life. Even the most ardent devotees of daily prayer could possibly use this book for days without repeating a single prayer. The Publicans Prayer Book alone can provide a nourishing prayer life without any supplement.

The formatting of the book is visually appealing and the artwork, while simple, is more than adequate. The cover and the binding are beautiful. Seven ribbons are provided to mark different pages in the book, an incredibly attractive feature of this book.  Anyone who prays the Byzantine Divine Office will understand exactly what I am alluding to! Of course, this would increase the price of the volume, but I would certainly be willing to pay a little bit more in order to keep my place as I use the book throughout the day. 

The table of contents  begins on page thirteen of the text.  This can be a little annoying because of the frequency one has to refer to this table due to the size of the volume.  The book does not have an index, something that should be considered for the next edition. The contents of the book are arranged in a logical sequence assisting the user in finding the desired page. These last two annoyances are mitigated by the fact the contents of the book are arranged in a logical sequence assisting the user in finding the desired page.The small glossary is limited and consideration should be given to expanding it in  the next edition. On the whole, these are only very minor issues though and don’t detract from the overall  excellence of the book. 

One of the most appealing parts of the Publicans Prayer Book is it uses modern English.  Gone are the use of “thy, thou, and thine”. While it is understandable why many prayer books use this language, it can hit the modern ear the wrong way, interfering with the prayerful use of the book.  Using modern English makes this book accessible to just about everyone. One very modest handicap is the limited amount of rubrics in the book.  You need a basic understanding and familiarity with the Byzantine Divine Office to get the most out of using this book.  Again, this is only a modest negative. 

There are no obvious factual, spelling, or grammar errors–possibly with the sole exception of the title of the book! Prayer books of such size and scope often do have a few noticeable (and often annoying) spelling errors, usually in key places. The editors of the book are to be commended for such exact proofreading. 

The current price of $50 makes this book a steal.  Run, do not walk to your computer and order this book.  You will not be disappointed and your prayer life will receive a boost! Who doesn’t need that?