Learning the Daily Office – part 8 of 12

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

After the Confession of Sin you’ve probably noticed a little dialogue: “O Lord, open our lips / and our mouth shall proclaim your praise” and so on.  This is called the Invitatory – a fancy description of something that invites us to worship.  Included in it is the Gloria Patri – “Glory be to the Father…” – which you will find is also said at the end of most of the Canticles.  If you haven’t already noticed and implemented it, now’s also the time to add this Gloria Patri to the end of the regular Psalms Appointed, too.

The lines “O Lord open our lips…” are from a Psalm, but their liturgical use in the Offices dates to monastic tradition; the idea was that this dialogue was the beginning of the first morning office, effectively being the first thing the monk says each day.  Although this is not the case for us, nor is it even the beginning of the liturgy, it is like the beginning of the liturgy.  If you conceive of the Confession as preparatory to praising God, then the Invitatory dialogue is where our praises actually do begin.

After this dialogue, Morning and Evening Prayer diverge from one another.

Morning Prayer sees an “invitatory psalm” take place, which is traditionally Psalm 95 (Venite), though when that psalm shows up as one of the daily psalms appointed our tradition is to replace it with Psalm 100 (Jubilate).  On Easter the Pascha nostrum takes their place.  You’ll also see a set of Antiphons, which are brief phrases (often based on bible verses) to be said before and after the invitatory psalm.  Catholic tradition is full of antiphons, but our prayer book only provides them for this one place in the liturgy.  Even here, it’s optional, so don’t worry about them if you find it too much.  They’re there to beautify and enrich the liturgy, so if they’re a burden, don’t worry!

Evening Prayer is simpler: we find the Phos hilaron, an ancient Christian hymn, to be read between the dialogue and the Psalms.  It explores the image of Christ as our Light, which has earned it a beloved place in the liturgical tradition.  The classical prayer books didn’t have anything here for Evening Prayer, so the Phos hilaron remains optional.  Or you can read or sing a different hymn instead, if you prefer.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. (Opening Sentence)
  2. The Confession of Sin
  3. The Invitatory
  4. Invitatory Psalm or Phos Hilaron
  5. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  6. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  7. First Canticle
  8. New Testament Lesson
  9. Second Canticle
  10. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  11. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    5. A Prayer for Mission

This covers almost the entire Prayer Book liturgy for daily Morning and Evening Prayer.  Two more steps remain to complete it, and then two extra steps to expand it further if you are so inclined.

What’s different in the liturgy now that it’s Lent?

Welcome to Ash Wednesday, the common name for The First Day of Lent.  Occasionally you’ll see today called quadragesima because there are now 40 days left (excluding Sundays) until Easter Day.  Let the 40-day fast begin!

One of the main questions I get from non-liturgical Christians, concerning Lent, is “what do you differently during this time?”  This blog post is aimed at answering that question – partly for the benefit of those who are wondering the same thing, but also as a reminder to my fellow Anglican readers who might need a reminder of some of the changes, or possible changes, in the daily course of our liturgy.

Today’s  differences

For those of us using the 2019 Daily Lectionary, or one of the historic daily lectionaries that uses the regular calendar, we may need the reminder that today’s lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer are interrupted from the regular course.  At the bottom of page 740 in the BCP 2019 you’ll see the following readings appointed for today:

  • Isaiah 58:1-12 & Luke 18:9-14 for the Morning
  • Jonah 3 & 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for the Evening

To that I would recommend another traditional-for-this-day reading, Hebrews 12:3-17, for Midday Prayer.

At the Holy Communion (or in place of it, if the Communion itself isn’t actually going to be celebrated) we have a special liturgy in the 2019 Book, starting on page 543, and prefaced by a handy introduction to this day (and Lent in general) on page 542.  It’s worth reminding ourselves that the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a custom that was removed from Anglican practice during the Reformation, and not formally put into a Prayer Book until 1979, though the Anglo-Catholic movement had provided extra-liturgical material to sneak the practice back into the liturgy before it was embraced by the church as a whole.  You can read last year’s note about Ash-less Wednesday here.

Also, remember that today’s Collect of the Day is now the Collect of the Day for the rest of this week!

Morning Prayer during Lent

There are some extra Opening Sentences of Scripture appropriate for this season on page 27.

The Venite (Psalm 95) should be said in full daily this season, if you don’t normally do so already.  Keep in mind that you can bookend it with a Lenten antiphon from page 30!

The first Canticle, Te Deum laudamus, is recommended in our Prayer Book to be replaced with the Benedictus es, Domine on page 18.  This Customary would recommend retaining the Te Deum on Sundays and other major holy days, however.

If you don’t normally do so, make a point of praying the Great Litany (page 91) after Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Evening Prayer during Lent

There are some extra Opening Sentences of Scripture appropriate for this season on page 54.

The second canticle, Nunc dimittis, could be replaced by Canticle 3, Kyrie Pantokrator, most evenings.  We’d recommend doing so on Monday through Friday.

The Minor Offices during Lent

The “Alleluia” after the invitatory dialogue is to be omitted now.

For Midday Prayer, it may be a good idea to make use of one the Additional Directions and make more extensive use of Psalm 119 throughout the season.  Consider this two-week rotation of Midday Psalms:

  • <week 1> :day: <week 2>
  • 124, 126 :Sundays: 124, 126
  • 19 :Mondays: 119:81-96
  • 119:1-16 :Tuesdays: 119:97-112
  • 119:17-32 :Wednesdays: 119:113-128
  • 119:33-48 :Thursdays: 119:129-144
  • 119:49-64 :Fridays: 119:145-160
  • 119:65-80 :Saturdays: 119:161-176

Consider making more frequent use of Matthew 11:28-30 as the Lesson at Compline.

The Holy Communion during Lent

There is an Acclamation appropriate for Lent on page 146, and another one for Holy Week.

This is a good season to make weekly use of the Decalogue (page 100) instead of the Summary of the Law if you don’t normally already.

The Gloria in excelsis is traditionally omitted during Lent.  Consider replacing it with a hymn from the Lent section of your hymnal, just to emphasize the season difference in mood.

The First Sunday in Lent is one of the traditional days to read The Exhortation (page 147).

Consider using Offertory Sentences (page 149) that are more pointed about spiritual disciplines, such as Matthew 7:21, 1 John 3:17, and Tobit 4:8-9.  This could be especially effective if you normally use the same one every week, memorized from the list in 1979 Book.

The “alleluia” in the Fraction dialogue (on page 118/135) is to be omitted now.

If you don’t normally prayer the Prayer of Humble Access and the Agnus Dei (page 119/135), this is the season to start.  (Pro-tip: never stop using them!)

In fact, if your congregation normally uses the “Renewed Ancient Text”, I cannot heartily-enough encourage you to switch to the “Anglican Standard Text” at least for Lent.  You’ll get more direct prayers of confession and of consecration (not to mention historically Anglican prayers).

Other Spiritual Practices

The classical Prayer Books appointed the Collect for Ash Wednesday to be used after the Collect of the Day throughout the season of Lent.  I’m not so sure the 2019 Prayer Book intends to allow that, so consider making use of this Collect elsewhere – in the additional prayers at the end of an Office, or after the Prayers of the People at the Communion, or in your private prayers and devotions.

On page 689 our calendar directs The weekdays of Lent and every Friday of the year (outside the 12 Days of Christmas the 50 days of Eastertide) are encouraged as days of fasting.  The classical Prayer Books were more direct about the expectation (not just encouragement) that we should fast.  We’re not Romanists, so we don’t have elaborate standardized definitions of what “counts” as fasting; we have the freedom in Christ to fast according to conscience, as the Bible indicates.  Nevertheless, some advice is helpful, and our calendar provides some: Fasting, in addition to reduced consumption, normally also includes prayer, self-examination, and acts of mercy.  It is popular to “give something up for Lent”, or to “take something on for Lent”, and almost all of those particular expressions of Lenten devotion are summed up in that one sentence.  Consider how you might mark this season in your own lifestyle, and give it a go.

Learning the Daily Office – part 7 of 12

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:

  1. an address to God (identifying a name or attribute or work of God)
  2. a specific petition or request
  3. a reason for that petition or request, often linking back to the address
  4. 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.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Confession of Sin
  2. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  3. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  4. First Canticle
  5. New Testament Lesson
  6. Second Canticle
  7. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  8. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    5. A Prayer for Mission

At this point you’re almost saying the entire morning and evening offices in the prayer book tradition, congratulations!

Spacing out the Lessons

Although I grew up a congregationalist, I was blessed to be part of a church that read a pretty good deal of Scripture in the worship service.  As a college student visiting other churches for the first time I was shocked at how often only one reading would be read, and sometimes not until during the sermon, such that the sermon seemed to be controlling the reading, rather than the reading leading to the sermon.

Needless to say, coming into the Anglican tradition was a relief for me on this front, preserving this good practice of reading plenty of Bible stuff during the worship services.  I suppose this background interest and attention paved the way for the amount of time I spent studying lectionaries in the first three-ish years of my priesthood.

But something I hadn’t thought about before was the way we space out the Scripture readings. In my liturgically-influenced congregationalist past, the norm was to hear three readings from the Bible back to back, individually introduced, but responded to as a whole: “This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God for his holy and inspired Word.”  But in the Daily Office we say a Canticle after both lessons, and in the Holy Communion we typically have a psalm and/or a hymn between lessons. Why?

In the case of the Daily Office, the two lessons are not related to each other, so it is valuable to “clear the mind”, as it were, between the two in order to reduce the tendency to try to draw connections that aren’t there.  In the case of the Communion lessons, the traditional thing separating them was a Gradual (or sometimes also Tract or Sequence) which were normally bits of psalms, and actually topically or thematically connected to the other Propers of the day, so they were worshipful expressions in tandem with what was being read.

But John Cosin’s Comments on the Prayer Book provide further insight into this question:

The inferior parts of the soul being vehemently intent about psalms and prayers, and therefore the likelier to be soon spent and wearied; thereupon hath the Church interposed lessons to be read betwixt them, for the higher part of the soul, the understanding, to work upon, that by variety neither may be wearied, and both be an help one to the other.

The sense of his explanation is this: think of worship like physical exercise.  One minute you focus on your triceps, another on your biceps; even from day to day people often have different focuses: leg day, core, and so on.  The point of this is to spread out the stress so you don’t injure yourself.  So with worship: we pray prayers and read canticles, but intersperse them with Scripture so that our hearts and minds can have turns taking the lead within us.

It’s as if our ecclesiastical forebears knew what they were doing, huh? 😉

Learning the Daily Office – part 6 of 12

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

Alright, it’s time for something distinctly Anglican: the prayer of confession at the daily office.  While confessing our sins before God is a universal practice (if grossly underutilized among many Evangelicals and Pentecostals today), it is a distinctly Anglican practice to include it in the Daily Office.  You will find it starting on page 11 for Morning Prayer and page 41 for Evening Prayer.  There is a paragraph that the Officiant (the person leading the Office) reads aloud, followed by the prayer of confession itself, followed by a choice of three responses.  Two of those responses are statements of absolution to be read by a priest or bishop, but the third is a prayer for forgiveness that is to be read by anyone when no such minister is present, and that is what you’ll read when you’re doing this alone.

You’ll also see three “opening sentences of scripture” listed before this Confession set; feel free to read one of these first, too, as they serve as a sort of “call to worship”, beginning to direct your focus upon God and his Word before the act of self-examination and confession.

In the Daily Office we confess our sins at the beginning of the liturgy.  This teaches us:

  1. that it is only in repentance that we find salvation;
  2. that we can only approach God in humility, not pride or presumption;
  3. that true worship comes from a “broken and contrite heart”;
  4. that there is no “health” (salvation) in us apart from God’s grace.

So it’s time to start your morning and evening prayer times with this confession.  Sometimes you’ll read it quickly and move right along.  Sometimes you’ll dwell on the words, or need to dwell on the words, along the way, letting their truth sink in and sober you up to reality.  Sometimes a moment of silent self-examination will be necessary – think on your sins in the past day and release them to the Lord for forgiveness and healing.  Sometimes this will feel merely a perfunctory feature of the Daily Office… remember this is a discipline, after all, so it’s there to shape and form you.  Your heart will not always be as “into it” as other times, just like how certain psalms may appeal to you less or more than others.  The point is that this is the pattern of worship you are growing in to, and that you have this opportunity to repent every time you approach the Lord in prayer.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Confession of Sin
  2. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  3. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  4. First Canticle
  5. New Testament Lesson
  6. Second Canticle
  7. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  8. The Lord’s Prayer

This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening.  Apart from the Canticles, the format and order of Morning and Evening Prayer are identical for you.  But that will soon change.

A (different) Collect for Sundays

Those of who prayed or ministered under the 1979 Prayer Book for any length of time may be familiar with its Collect for Sundays from Morning Prayer.  It goes like this:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the rest of the week may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This neat little prayer plays directly into the concept of “sacred time”, identifying the chief reason Christian worship on Sundays (the resurrection of our Lord), and asking for a favorable week in light of the blessing of the Sunday worship.  While succinct, this prayer may come across a little blunt.  “You make us glad… give us this day… that the rest of the week may be spent…”  This Collect was written by the Rev. William Bright and first published in the appendix of his book Ancient Collects, and it read like this:

O God, Who makest us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of Thy Son our Lord ; vouchsafe us this day such a blessing through Thy worship, that the days which follow it may be spent in Thy favour ; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Meanwhile, there was another prayer lurking in the back the 1979 Book (on page 835), also entitled On Sunday, which proved much more robust:

O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This Collect was drafted by the Rev. Dr. Charles Price, who served on the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church for many years, in his day, leaving his mark on the 1979 Prayer Book in several places.  As you can see this prayer does much the same thing as the first one: identifying the “sacred meaning” of Sunday with the resurrection of Christ, but it unpacks this reality in manifold praises and petitions.  We celebrate Christ’s victory and the hope he wins for us; we pray not only for the redemption of time (as in the first collect) but also for forgiveness, courage, boldness, and perseverance.  Compared to one another, this one is much meatier.

And so when you take up the 2019 Prayer Book you’ll find that these two collects have swapped places.  The second one is now offered in the Morning Office for Sundays, with a new title: A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return, and the first one is tossed into the Occasional Prayers, appearing as #102 On Sundays on page 676.  I mean, hey, they’re both fine prayers in their own rights.  And they’re only about 100 years apart in age.  But it’s an encouraging thing to observe – the ACNA committees identifying similar prayers and opting to put pride of place to those with more weight, gravity, and substance for the regular pray-er of the Daily Office.

Learning the Daily Office – part 5 of 12

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.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. First Canticle
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Second Canticle
  6. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  7. 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.

The Daily Office is a pastoral work!

In the 1662 Prayer Book, it is stipulated that “all the priests and deacons shall be bound to say daily” the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  Sadly, this instruction was not preserved in the American Prayer Book tradition, and so we have the situation today where we have many clergymen who pray the Offices only sparsely at best.  A challenge and correction to this mentality can be found in the writings of John Cosin, one of the “Caroline Divines”, who survived the Puritan Interregnum and was then Bishop of Durham from 1660 until his death in 1672.  Commenting on this rubric he wrote:

So that we are also bound, as all priests are in the Church of Rome, daily to repeat and say the public prayers of the Church.  And it is a precept the most useful and necessary, of any other that belong to the ministers of God, and such as have cure of other men’s souls, would men regard it, and practise it a little more than they do among us.

We are all for preaching now; and for attending the service and prayers appointed by the Church for God’s worship, and the good of all men, we think that too mean an office for us; and therefore, as if it were not worth our labour, we commonly hire others under us to do it, more to satisfy the law, than to be answerable to our duties.  Here it is a command that binds us every day to say the morning and evening prayer; how many are the men that are noted to do it?  It is well they have a back door for an excuse to come out at here: for, good men ! they are so belaboured with studying of divinity, and preaching the word, that they have no leisure to read these same common prayers; as if this were not the chief part of their office and charge committed unto them.

Certainly, the people whose souls they have care of, reap as great benefit, and more too, by these prayers, which their pastors are daily to make unto God for them, either privately or publicly, as they can do by their preaching: for God is more respective to the prayers which they make for the people, than ever the people are to the sermons which which they make to them.

… Therefore Samuel [the Prophet] professes it openly, to the shame of all others, that he should sin no less in neglecting to pray for the people, than he should in leaving off to teach them the right way of God’s commandments; both which are needful, but to them that are already converted, prayer is more necessary than preaching.  However we are to remember, that we which are priests are called “angeli Domini“* and it is the angel’s office, not only to descend to the people and teach them God’s will, but to ascend also to the presence of God to make intercession for the people, and to carry up the daily prayers of the Church in their behalf, as here they are bound to do.

* see Malachi 2:7, Revelation 2:1, 2:8, 2:12, etc.

This is from John Cosin’s “Notes and Collections” in an interleaved Book of Common Prayer.  The bold is mine for emphasis.

For some this may be a revolutionary way of looking at the Daily Office.  For others this may just be an excellent reminder and encouragement of the gravity of the duty of a priest or deacon.

So if you’re a priest or a deacon, especially if you’re a rector or vicar, or especially especially if you’re a bishop, see that you battle to overcome the apathy of our age and the quiet scorn that we cast at the Church and her Prayer Book every time we choose our own prayers in place of that which has been set forth by authority.  The people need our prayers!  And the prayers that we have are, indeed a divine office.

Learning the Daily Office – part 4 of 12

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.

  1. It is a formation tool, helping us to internalize the basics of the faith.
  2. It is a teaching tool, helping us to understand what we read in the Bible.
  3. 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.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. Psalm(s) to pray
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. Psalm to pray
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Psalm to pray (usually)
  6. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  7. 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.

Learning the Daily Office – part 3 of 12

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

If all’s going well, your twice-daily round of praying a psalm and reading a scripture lesson has increased your appetite for both.  Individuals may well find more comfort and affinity with one of those over the other, but as you grow into the Daily Office tradition there’s still more of both to add.  When you’re consistently covering one Psalm and Lesson each morning and evening, it’s time to add a second Lesson and additional Psalms to each Office.  You will be reading all the Lessons in the Daily Office Lectionary, and it’s probably time also to upgrade from the 60-day Psalter to the Anglican standard monthly psalter.

The monthly psalter is outlined in a table that is provided on page 735, just before the Daily Office Lectionary begins, but the Psalms themselves are also in the Prayer Book, on starting on page 270.  If you weren’t before, it’s time to start using the Prayer Book Psalter.  Even though you’re reading from a Bible, there are a few reasons to prefer the Prayer Book for the Psalms:

  1. The Prayer Book Psalter clearly marks out where the psalms for each Office begin (every morning and evening for each day of the month, read sequentially).
  2. The Prayer Book Psalter translation is intentionally poetic and beautiful, which cannot be said about any mainstream Bible translation.  The ESV or NASB may be the best translations for study, but we’re here to pray the psalms, not analyze them.  (Not that you can’t study the psalms of course, it’s just that the Office is time of prayer.)
  3. Using the Prayer Book is a useful skill that you will be developing bit by bit from here on.

Logistically, what you probably want to do at this point is different from how the Office in its full form will work.  Ultimately, all these Psalms will be prayed in a row before the Lessons, and there will be different things after each reading.  But for now, start in the psalms for the morning and evening and save the last one or two to pray between the two Lessons, or perhaps after both Lessons.

The point of interspersing the Psalms with the Lessons is to provide a little distance between the two readings.  In the Daily Office Lectionary the readings are just moving sequentially through the Bible independently of one another, so by stopping to pray a Psalm after the first lesson you “clear your mind” a little bit before reading the next lesson.  You don’t want to conflate them in your head and attempt to link them together artifically; that’s not how a Daily lectionary works.  Taking a moment to pray a Psalm after each Lesson also helps keep your reading in a context of prayer, cutting down on the “study” mentality and enhancing the “worship” mentality.  Again, this is not to say that studying the Bible is bad, but that such should not interrupt the course of worship.  At most, make a highlight or note in your Bible or on a book mark so you can return to it when the prayer time is concluded.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. Psalm(s) to pray
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. Psalm to pray
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Psalm to pray (maybe)
  6. The Lord’s Prayer

The length of time to do all this is 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.