Following the tradition of the monastic offices, Midday Prayer begins with a shortened version of the same dialogue used in Morning and Evening Prayer. So Midday Prayer still is what is traditionally termed a “minor office.” It was a brief devotion primarily observed in the monastaries, intentionally short and largely invariable. This is expressed in the Prayer Book today by its similarity to Morning and Evening Prayer, but shortening all its components. The opening dialogue between the officiant and the people is abbreviated from the regular Daily Office.
The rubrics allow for a “suitable hymn”, also a nod to monastic practice in which every Office (including the Minor Offices of Terce, Sext, and None) has its own hymn for the hour. This option also imitates the role of the Invitatory Psalm or the Phos Hilaron.
The Rule of Saint Benedict set a pattern of psalms on a weekly basis, alloting Psalms 119 through 128 to Terce (9am), Sext (12pm), and None (3pm). Four selections from this range are provided in the main text of Midday Prayer, and the rest are recommended in the Additional Directions. Each of the main four provide a different tone or mood that can be pertinent at midday.
This is perhaps the most famous piece of Psalm 119 among Protestants, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet” being a popular memory verse and also put to song. The meditation upon the word of God in this Psalm gives the worshiper an opportunity for daily celebration of God’s spiritual provision.
This Psalm of trust is a word of comfort. In the middle of the day, when one might feel particularly distant from the grounding morning and evening times of worship, it can be a helpful devotion to lift up one’s eyes to acknowledge the Lord, our help and keeper and defense.
This is a Psalm of victory, celebrating the triumph of the Lord over the raging waters of our three-fold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Encouragement for us and praise for God, in whom is our help, can be a timely pick-me-up at midday.
This is a petitionary Psalm, looking at the subject of peseverance. “The Lord has done great things for them”, the worshiper notes, looking back in history, and on that basis looks ahead with hope: “Overturn our captivity, O Lord.” In a difficult day it can be helpful to be reminded in prayer that one is half-way through.
Or, as Jon Bon Jovi wisely put it, “Oh, we’re half-way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer!”