Practice: The Daily Office
Each month my small group choses a different spiritual practice to try out. Some months we go traditional and do things like meditation or fasting. Other months we do spiritual practices outside the traditional church practices like celebration (we threw a big party together). This month we have chosen to practice the daily office together, and I’d like to share the short guide I wrote the group if others are interested in practicing the daily office.
Basically, the daily office (also known as the divine Hours, daily Prayers, fixed-hour prayer, etc) is the practice of praying at different set times during the day, normally using a prayer book or other guide. The daily office can be traced back to the first century of the church, when early Christians recited the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. The daily office was formalized by St. Benedict and his monks, which prayed when they woke up, 6am, dawn, 9am, noon, 3pm, dusk, and before bed. They used a set prayer book of written prayers and Psalms, so they were all praying the same things at each hour.
The daily office is most often done using a set of written prayers and scripture passages in a prayer book already planned out for each day. The prayer book may have different daily prayers for a whole year of practicing the hours, or it may repeat on a weekly or monthly basis (aka. your morning and evening prayers for the 1st Monday of this month will be a repeat of the prayers written for the first Monday of last month). Some of them have prayers just for the morning or evening, and others have prayers for up to 6 times a day. You pray the daily office using a prayer book to help guide your prayers and to unite with all the other Christians around the world also praying the daily office. Praying using pre-written prayers may be difficult for us Protestants not used to liturgy, but I think it will be a worthwhile thing to try.
Maria’s Short guide to praying The Daily Office:
1) Pick one of the prayer-guides from my list below.
2) Pick times you want to say the prayers. For instance, if your guide has morning, midday, and evening prayers, maybe you choose to pray in the morning after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner, or maybe at set times- 7am, 12noon, and 7pm. It is important to come up with fixed times to pray the office to get into a routine.
3) Pick a place or atmosphere. Things like having a fixed place to sit and pray the daily prayers or music you listen to while praying may help build a routine.
4) Make it your own. Add meditation afterwards. Do only morning and evening prayers, even though the prayer guide you picked has prayers for 6 times a day. Sing a song each day as part of your prayers. Be a little flexible and make it your own.
5) If you miss a day or several days, don’t worry, try picking it back up again.
Here is a list of online resources you can check out: (If you think my list is too long, jump straight to The Divine Hours or Missio Dei and check them out- I recommend those two the most.)
Book of Common Prayer If you go to the September calendar, there are prayers for each morning and evening of each day. The prayers are long and include things like songs, but remember you wouldn’t have to do all of the prayer for each morning/evening. Definitely more traditional in style.
The Divine Hours This offers a series of short prayers and readings, often from Psalms, throughout the day. There are morning, mid-day, and evening prayers for each day. This is a great “middle of the road” option for praying the hours- traditional format written and organized by a contemporary author. Here is the website. Just go to “Pray the Hours”, pick your time zone and bookmark the website.
Anglican Prayers These are daily morning and evening prayers from the Anglican church. These are written to do with a group in a led service, so may not be the best choice, but I threw them in anyways.
Celtic Prayer There are morning, midday, and evening prayers from a celtic community, here. Simple and straightforward, most of the prayers are the same day-to-day, so good if you want a lot of repetition.
Universalis If you go here and look at the left side-bar you will find morning, mid-morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and night prayers. Lots of Psalms and prayers for each one. Good if you want a guide to practice the hours 6 times a day (or of course you could pick to do only morning and evening prayers from this guide and skip the rest of the hours).
Missio Dei My personal favorite- these are the prayers I use. Straightforward and contemporary, and the website is less confusing than others. Offers both morning and evening prayers, including short opening and closing prayers, instructions for meditating or reflecting, and readings from the bible.
Pray the Pslams Skip the online prayer-guides and just pray the Psalms. Pick set time or two each day for your Daily office, say an opening prayer (maybe the Lord’s Prayer), read a Psalm, and say a closing prayer. This is the simplest way to pray the Daily Office, but you do miss out a bit on the tradition of praying with others who are using the same guide.
Watch The Office Head over to hulu.com and watch one episode of The Office each day. Be sure to start back a season or two so you have at least one episode a day to go the rest of the month. You are going to need to set aside about 30 minutes a day for this one. (I am of course kidding about this one.)
If any of you have any tips or other resources to recommend (online or in books) on the Daily Office, let me know so I can share them!