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
Step Five: Add Canticles
In terms of content and outline, you’ve already reached a distinctly historic Christian pattern of worship. This step adds in “Canticles”, which are occasionally Psalms but usually Psalm-like texts from other parts of the Bible, to be read after each Scripture Lesson. This is where you really start entering into the liturgical history of the Church!
Functionally, this step does not introduce anything new; you started with learning to pray the psalms, and the Canticles work exactly the same way. Experientially this is purely a matter of logistics: all the Psalms Appointed for the morning or evening are prayed together, then you get the Lessons, both of which are followed by a Canticle.
In Morning Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 17 – you’ll see two choices (Te Deum laudamus and Benedictus es, Domine) for the first one and the Benedictus for the second. In Evening Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 45 – the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis. There are also Supplemental Canticles for Worship starting on page 79 and I do have a guide to choosing among them, but it’s simplest to stick with the primary ones provided in the Morning and Evening Office liturgies and get used to them first. The supplemental canticles are just that – supplemental.
Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:
- The Psalm(s) Appointed
- Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
- First Canticle
- New Testament Lesson
- Second Canticle
- The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
- The Lord’s Prayer
This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about ten to fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening. You are now also engaging with four different places in the Prayer Book: the middle of the Morning Prayer liturgy, the middle of the Evening Prayer liturgy, the Psalter, and the Daily Office Lectionary.
Once you get used to this, you’ll be well-positioned to fill out the rest of the Daily Office liturgies. Chances are that the next couple steps will progress quickly.