The Daily Office (You Don’t Have to Work in One)
I was not exposed to the daily office until just a few years ago as part of seminary. Can I just say, “Where was this all my life!?”
Well, actually it’s been around for centuries, starting with Judaism. Phyllis Tickle, in the forward to her The Divine Hours, says that for Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire, prayer coincided with the ringing of the 6:00AM bell, when daily business began in the city. The day’s progress was noted with bells also at 9:00AM, noon for a lunch break, 3:00PM for return to business (that’s a long lunch break!), and the close of the day at 6:00PM. While the psalms speak of prayer in the morning and evening, these set hours impacted the life of the early church from the start.
She says that in Acts 3, John and Peter were on their way to the 3:00PM prayer as they healed a lame man, and in Acts 10, Peter received a vision from God while praying at noon on a rooftop.
We can then trace its history through the church fathers, monasticism, and the Anglican Church’s Book of Common Prayer. Needless to say, Christians have found the daily office a source of rhythm, discipline, and structure for the way they pray.
The number one objection that some give is that this is a “Catholic” practice. And while there are aspects of Catholicism that Protestants ought to reject, this is not one of them. If you’re a Protestant who admits that he/she has a lousy prayer life, then why not give this a shot? If you already have an enlivened, daily time of prayer and communion with God, then by all means, keep going. At the end of the day, it is difficult to argue against a form of prayer grounded in Scripture and in developing a personal discipline within the context of the saints of all ages.
Personally, I prefer the daily office as part of my practice of prayer because it uses the psalms and other passages to prompt me to pray. It is a slower form of prayer that provides time for reflection. Like liturgical prayer, it gives me words when I have none. And as a traditionalist, I like knowing that Christians have been praying these kinds of prayers for centuries, and that Christians around the world are praying the same thing in their time zones and languages.
I’d give you an example here, but I’m pretty sure that breaks copyright laws. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend Phyllis Tickle’s 3-book series which covers the entire year. You can find it on Amazon or preview it on Google books. It uses today’s English (no King James stuff) and is formatted to help you easily find which day you’re on. I know there are apps available. I have not used them, but would love to hear your feedback on ones you like.