In centuries past, it was easy to walk to your parish church and attend daily prayer services. People could pray and hear the scriptures daily. Today, with our busy schedules and churches many miles away, going to church every day just doesn’t seem possible. This places a heavier burden on individual families to be diligent in their commitment to prayer and scripture at home. I found this to be especially hard in non-denominational and baptist circles, where I was just told to read and pray as the spirit led. Or, pick a devotional among the hundreds of thousands out there. How do you go about picking one?
Let’s be real. It’s hard to pray and read every day if you don’t set up a routine. Even when you set up a routine, life happens and disruptions occur, and the temptation is to leave praying and reading for ‘when you have the time’ and truthfully, it’s easy for it to slip from your mind and then feel guilty on Sunday mornings when the sermon reminds us to pray and read scriptures every day. But left to our own, how do we do it? My solution is to make it a family routine based on the Anglican church’s “Daily Office.”
This post is the first of a series of three parts that include 1) the explanation of why to use the Daily Office to pray and read at home, 2) how to adapt the Daily Office for home use and 3) step-by-step instructions on how to use the Daily Prayer App for home family prayer.
“Daily Office” — sounds like a newspaper, doesn’t it? It’s actually an amazing church practice dating back centuries that governs how to incorporate daily prayers and scripture reading into the congregation’s routine, and as a result, it is meant to shape, enhance, and deepen our private prayers.
What is the Daily Office? It is a daily church service of scripture readings and prayers containing a structured pattern of Bible reading and fixed hours of prayer that follow creation’s pattern – sunrise and sunset. (I borrow generously from this resource in describing the Daily Office.)
Why adapt the Daily Office to home family use? “Blessed are those… who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on his law day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither – whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3) The reasons are both liturgical and evangelical. Just like we need a routine for eating and sleeping to maintain a healthy body, we need a daily, ordered, disciplined routine for our souls. It is evangelical in training us how to teach others to pray, through our personal example and being able to point them to something. Since the readings and prayers have been written down and agreed upon for centuries, praying them is joining our voice with that of the Church throughout the world and throughout time, both on earth and in heaven!
The Daily Office is always communal, even if practiced alone; and it is always boisterous, even when prayed quietly or silently. When we pray the Daily Office, we are not simply doing solitary spiritual exercises; rather, we are “pitching in” or “volunteering” with a great, everlasting, ongoing happening with innumerable “others” who are lending their hearts and voices. Thus, the Daily Office is the best means to be a “prayer warrior” in well-ordered communion with the whole Church. (ref.)
Does the Daily Office replace free form prayer? No, the Daily Office is meant to help focus your thoughts on the things of God and encourage growth in your personal free-form prayer. It begins with scripture readings and well thought-out prayers intended to inspire, nurture and deepen your personal prayers. Instead of tossing yourself out into the middle of the wide ocean of prayer life without any guide whatsoever, the Daily Office promotes theologically sound prayers. Before you know it, you’ll be praying correct doctrine and properly forming your knowledge, understanding and relationship with God. If you’re hesitant about praying pre-written prayers, check out this post that addresses this issue.
It is within the structure of the Daily Office that free, personal, private, spontaneous, extemporaneous, conversational prayer is expressed throughout the day. The Daily Office enables us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) by linking corporate Sunday worship with unceasing private prayer. Think of Sunday worship as the heart, the Daily Office as the veins, and private prayer as the blood. (ref.)
Okay, you sold me on the Daily Office, but life is so busy, how do I implement something made for church service at home? Read the next post: How to Pray Part 2: Adapting the Daily Office to Home Prayer!