So you’ve heard about the Daily Office, specifically the Anglican tradition of daily prayer and scripture reading, and you want to enter into this beautiful and formative tradition? Great, grab a prayer book and go! Except, maybe someone already said that and you don’t know where to start… or worse, you did try it and it was just too much? The length of the Office was overwhelming and the contents too complicated to navigate when you’ve got no experience with liturgy. We understand, we’ve all been at that place before! Some just don’t remember it as well as others.
Diving into the full Prayer Book life of worship doesn’t work for everyone; sometimes you have to work your way up toward that discipline, adding one piece at a time as you grow comfortable with each feature and learn how to “do” them all. This post series is basically a twelve-step program to help you advance in the life of disciplined prayer from zero to super-Anglican. The pace is up to you – the goal of this sort of spiritual discipline is consistency, not “how much” you do.
Step One: Pray a Psalm followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Step Two: Add a Scripture Reading
Step Three: Add more Psalms and Lessons
Step Four: Add the Apostles’ Creed
This is a small step, logistically speaking, but it’s a milestone in your development of the discipline of the Daily Office. This is your first not-from-the-Bible ingredient in your prayer life, and this may be especially foreign or challenging for you depending upon your background.
As Anglicans we emphasize our adherence to creedal orthodoxy; that is, we look to the great Creeds (in our case three of them) to summarize the dogmas of the Christian faith – dogma being that which must be believed. When we include a Creed in a worship service, it is for multiple reasons.
- It is a formation tool, helping us to internalize the basics of the faith.
- It is a teaching tool, helping us to understand what we read in the Bible.
- It is a particular form of prayer: a confession of faith.
Although none of the Psalms literally say “I believe ___”, there are many confessions of faith found within the psalms – proclaiming God’s goodness, or mercy, or love. The reciting of a Creed is a development of that form of prayer, stating more explicitly a number of key points of doctrine regarding God, the person of Jesus, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.
Furthermore, we use the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office not only because it’s the shortest creed but because it was historically associated with the rite of holy baptism – this Creed (as best we can tell) was formed as the summary of the faith that was proclaimed in the Early Church when someone was getting baptized. So as we confess our faith with this creed in Morning and Evening Prayer we are essentially re-affirming our baptismal vows, recommitting ourselves to God and his Church and his Gospel.
It’s a small thing to add, but it’s a major addition to take in!
The Apostles’ Creed can be found on page 20 of the Prayer Book, shortly before the Lord’s Prayer in the liturgy. For now, you will be now praying the Creed immediately before the Lord’s Prayer. Some wise logistics, as a result, should be that you make a point of saving one of appointed Psalms to follow the first Lesson and a second Psalm to follow the second Lesson, in order to separate the Bible-reading from the Creed-reciting. Not every morning and evening will provide enough Psalms to accomplish this, so don’t sweat it if you run out. This isn’t the end of the road, after all, and the next step in this series will “solve” that problem anyway.
Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:
- Psalm(s) to pray
- Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
- Psalm to pray
- New Testament Lesson
- Psalm to pray (usually)
- The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
- The Lord’s Prayer
The length of time to do all this is still probably about five minutes, maybe as many as ten if the readings are particularly long and you’re reading them out loud. Same with the Psalms – praying them means reading them aloud – and sometimes they can be a little lengthy too.