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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Now it’s time to develop your utilization of the Prayer Book. You’re already reading the Confession, Psalms, Canticles, and Apostles’ Creed from it, now it’s time for some further prayers. In Morning Prayer pages 21-24 and in Evening Prayer pages 47-51 you will see that the Lord’s Prayer is preceded and followed by a larger sequence of Prayers. The Kyrie (“Lord have mercy…”) comes first, and after the Lord’s Prayer comes a “Suffrage” (a back-and-forth set of versicles and responses, mostly taken from the Psalms), and after that a pile of “collects” and prayers.
A Collect is a specific form of prayer, and the Prayer Book has tons of them. The usual structure of a collect is:
- an address to God (identifying a name or attribute or work of God)
- a specific petition or request
- a reason for that petition or request, often linking back to the address
- an appeal to the name of Jesus
In the 2019 Prayer Book you’ll the first Collect listed is “The Collect of the Day” – feel free to skip that for now; we’ll add it in later. For now, we’re focusing on developing your use of the Prayer Book liturgy without adding more page-flips.
Instead, finish your prayer times now with the Kyrie, Lord’s Prayer, a set of Suffrages, the Collect for the Day of the Week, and a Prayer for Mission. Morning and Evening Prayer provide different lists of prayers for this section, so your experiences of morning and evening are going to start diverging at this point.
You’ll notice that some of these prayers in Morning Prayer draw upon the image and reality of the beginning of the day, and Evening Prayer draws upon the images of darkness and light as pictures of death and life. Time and nature are explicitly now being drawn into your prayer life, and that’s a beautiful thing!
You’ll see that there are a couple more prayers and lines of other text after the prayers we’ve listed here, but don’t worry about them for now. Historically, those have been optional, almost thought of in an after-the-liturgy kind of status, so we’re going to save those for later. You’re welcome to plough ahead and include them now if you like, but don’t feel pressured.
Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:
- The Confession of Sin
- 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 Prayers
- Lord have mercy…
- The Lord’s Prayer
- A Collect for (the day of the week)
- A Prayer for Mission
At this point you’re almost saying the entire morning and evening offices in the prayer book tradition, congratulations!