I pray this finds you well and in good spirits as our nation continues to adjust to the “new normal” surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In the latest communication from our diocese, all public in-person worship gatherings and events have been suspended through April 4th.
The effects of this crisis are devastating in many ways, including to the corporate prayer life of the church. Yet this does present an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the gift of the Daily Office, whereby we are able to pray liturgically “together” as the body of Christ, even though we may be physically separated.
The only tools you need to pray the Daily Office are a Book of Common Prayer and a Bible. Once you learn the pattern, and where and when to choose your options, it’s very easy to incorporate this daily prayer discipline at home. We’ve even made a short video to help!
Below are some notes from the video you can reference:
- It always starts with an opening bit Versicle. What’s a Versicle? It’s like a verse, but shorter.
- Next there is the Invitatory, which is an invitation to worship. It’s like, “Let’s do this!” They are some seasonal options for the Invitatory, but not many.
- Next is the Psalms. Now we’re at the heart of the Daily Office. Psalms, Psalms, and more Psalms. The Psalter is like the prayer book of the Bible. If you pray Morning and Evening Prayer every day, you will read through all 150 psalms in a month.
- Scripture Reading and a Canticle
- Next is a mini-pattern: a Scripture reading and a canticle. It’s like peanut butter and jelly. They go together. Scripture reading and a canticle. You can do this pattern once. You can do it twice. But they always go together, and in that order.
- Apostles’ Creed
- You probably know this.
- The Lord’s Prayer
- And this one too.
- End Stuff
- The End Stuff can include your own personal prayers of intercession and thanksgiving, and any number of special prayers for special occasions.
- It’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure.”
- Remember, you’re praying, you can’t really mess it up!
Confused about the options?
In the back of the Prayer Book is the secret deciphering code where you can learn what psalms and Scripture readings are planned for what day of the week. This is called the Lectionary. It’s at the very back of the Prayer Book beginning on page 933.
The Office Lectionary is a two-year cycle: Year One and Year Two. How do you know what year you’re in? Simple! If it’s an odd number year, it’s Year One. Even number year (like 2020) it’s Year Two.
Next you locate the season of church year, and then the week within that season, then to the specific day. For each day you will find Psalms for Morning and Evening, and a set of three Scripture readings.
What about the Canticles? These are songs, mostly from the Bible, designed for liturgical worship. Suggested Canticles for Morning and Evening Prayer are found on page 144-145 in the Prayer Book.
What else is there?
That’s it! That’s all there is to it!
There are many Daily Office resources online. They make praying the Office incredibly convenient. I have used them many times, especially if I find myself “on the go.” They include: bookofcommonprayer.net, bcponline.org , and missionstclare.com
That said, nothing beats sitting down with a real Bible, a real Prayer Book, and flipping through some pages and choosing your own adventure.
As the saying goes, “Give a person an online version of the Daily Office, they can pray for a day. Teach a person how to pray the Office using a Prayer Book and Bible, they can pray for a lifetime!”
Have fun! Be patient with yourself!
May Our Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ grant you an abundance of His saving grace and mercy through your daily prayers.
Fr. Doran Stambaugh