“Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”-BCP, 100.
We all cultivate disciplines to accomplish something: exercising daily to live a healthy lifestyle, reading foreign newspapers to cultivate our ability to learn a second language, or waking up early to accomplish tasks that would otherwise take time from our family. Our goals and values determine our discipline. What kind of disciplines do we cultivate in our spiritual growth? Through the community of Christ’s body, God has preserved the historic offices of daily prayer as a mechanism for His work in us and in our world. These times of prayer help us to meditate on our current rhythms of life, denounce our areas of negligence and disobedience, and incline us to holiness for God’s glory.
How I Discovered the Daily Office
I learned during my time in seminary that the church historically had its own version of devotional times that has roots in second temple Judaism (1 Chron 16:40; 23:30; 2 Chron 2:4; Dan 6:13). Because I incline towards avoiding innovation in Christian theology and discipline (i.e. reinventing the wheel), I began to research this “Prayer office”. Although the term “office” may sound unfamiliar to us, it merely refers to a dutiful service (cf. Hebrews 9:6, Vulgate) which in the Church was realized as designated hours of prayer. Ashley and I were helping with a youth group at a church in Dallas; one of the students had a father who was an Anglican priest. I asked him where I could find the “Book of Common Prayer.” He smiled and told me to wait as he disappeared into another room. He later returned with a BCP in which he had inscribed a note of encouragement for me and signed it. This caring gesture became my warm invitation to Anglican devotion.
How Do Offices of Prayer Benefit?
When I got home and began to read this book, it confused me because I had no context for these prayers. The prayers were profound and wonderful, but I wanted to see their context, so I went with a friend to an Episcopal Church in Dallas to do the morning office. I began to experience God’s guiding hand throughout the day as the prayers that I prayed were recalled to mind throughout the rest of my day.
One evening I was heading from school to work, a bit upset that I would have to be out five nights that week and that I would be working until almost 11pm that night. I was reading through the daily office on the train on the way to work and I came upon this collect:
“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”-BCP, 124.
I meditated on the fact that at this moment (or soon thereafter or shortly before), other Anglicans would be praying this same prayer and that their prayer would look different than my own–their life circumstances varied. Whether we are in grievous turmoil or are tucking a child into bed at night, the offices of prayer are God’s tool for consecrating every action of our days (no matter how mundane) and redeeming every moment of our lives for His glory and our holiness. The frustration over my job situation was changed to thankfulness for God’s provision.
In the daily cycle of consecrating our day, we create contexts to recognize God’s work; God daily moves us from contrition to praise and thanksgiving. The prayer hours (or office, breviary, etc.) express our heartfelt desire to God while simultaneously setting our hearts aright despite the fluctuations of our lives.
This Lenten season we will begin doing the morning office on Friday mornings from 7-7:35 at Restoration. This complements Matt’s leadership of evening office on Sunday evenings. This time should serve to encourage reflection on our current habits and disciplines, repent of negligence or disobedience, and foster sanctified habits which serve to conform us into the image of Christ. We hope you will join us.