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
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory
Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day
Step Ten: Add the Closing Prayers
The last thing to add to the Daily Office are the closing prayers at the end of the service. These are the same in both morning and evening: a General Thanksgiving, a Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, a quick dialogue, and a final “grace” or “blessing” (on pages 25-26 and 51-53).
Historically, most of these have been optional prayers to tack onto the end of the Daily Office, and most of them remain optional even in our new Prayer Book. And indeed it may make more sense to omit the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom when you’re praying the Office alone, since it makes reference to the gathering of people in prayer. Nevertheless, be sure to read it from time to time anyway, because even though you may be praying alone in the physical sense, you are indeed praying in spiritual unity with untold thousands of fellow Anglicans.
If you’re so inclined, the first of the three closing sentences (sometimes called “graces” or “blessings”) is an excellent opportunity to make the sign of the cross, at the three-fold name of God: Father (up), Son (down), and Holy Spirit (left, right).
You are now praying the entire Daily Office, by the book, without omission. If you’re doing this comfortably, you can (and probably should!) invite others to join you. Include your family, or invite some other church members to join in with you! Maybe even talk to your priest about doing this in the church itself. Historically, every parish church was supposed to provide the daily rounds of prayer in full, after all. Wouldn’t that be amazing if God’s people once again could be so moved to daily corporate prayer?