The Problem: We All Need to Grow, But We're Not Sure How
Let's face it: to say the very least, we Christians all have room to grow when it comes to following Jesus.
None of us has “arrived.”
There’s always more to learn about who God is, what God has done, and how we can join God’s mission to set the world right again. And, even if we know a bunch about those things in the previous sentence, we surely don’t always live based on that knowledge!
Thankfully, there are a TON of resources out there that promise to help us grow in our walk with God.
Unfortunately, there are a TON of resources out there.
Seriously, where are you supposed to begin? I just went to Amazon, and there are over 200,000 results in the category of Books > Christian Books and Bibles > Christian Living. To narrow things down, I clicked on the sub-category “Spiritual Growth,” and there are still over 40,000 results.
Look, I don’t mean to slight all of these Spiritual Growth resources out there. I really don’t. Some of them are excellent, and I may even write one of my own someday.
However, in my view, the explosion of spiritual growth material creates/exacerbates the danger of an individualistic and consumeristic approach to the Christian life.
If you wanted to, you could spend the rest of your life bouncing around from niche spiritual growth resource to niche spiritual growth resource. From one book study to the next. Getting tired of something? Try something new!
While there’s nothing wrong with novelty or changing things up to keep one’s spiritual life fresh, as it were, the danger is that we might end up with nothing but novelty, nothing but our individual interests driving our walk with the Lord.
If that happens, we’re going to miss out on the riches of:
- Scripture. All of Scripture, not just our favorite parts.
- The Church: All of the Church, not just our local church, now, but the global Church, throughout history.
The Solution: The Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer
HEAR ME, HEAR ME: Doing the Daily Office will NOT solve all of your spiritual problems. That’s not what I’m saying. For one thing, you need the ministry of the Holy Spirit. For another, you need baptismal and eucharistic communion with the people of God.
HOWEVER, the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer is an ancient Christian (and, even before that, Jewish!) tradition that, I believe, can help us avoid the individualistic and consumeristic dangers of the Christian spirituality industrial complex.
The Daily Office is NOT just an Anglican thing. However, the Anglican tradition is one of several Christian traditions that have preserved the practice. And so it is something that the Anglian tradition can offer the entire Body of Christ.
Here Are 5 Things that You Can Learn from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer
1. Your Mornings and Evenings Belong to God
Hopefully, you and I both know this already. Our entire day belongs to God!
However, I don’t know about you, but I need regular reminders that time - all of it - is sacred. This is why I appreciate the Church Calendar, and it’s also why I appreciate the Daily Office. Beginning and ending each day with Scripture and prayer reminds me that the day and night in between prayer services belong to God.
By the way, the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer is not new, nor is it esoterically Anglican.
As Arthur Paul Boers noted in his 2001 Christianity Today piece, “The Rise and Fall of the Daily Office,”
The practice of daily, set prayer goes back to the Old Testament. The Psalms speak of prayer in the morning (5:3), early hours (130:6), evening (141:2), and day and night (92:2). Psalm 119:164a says, "Seven times a day I praise you." Scripture also mentions thrice-daily prayers (Ps. 55:17, Dan. 6:10). Jews said the Shema (a Scripture-based prayer praising God's greatness) two or three times a day.
The practice of the Daily Office or “fixed-hour prayer” developed from the Early Church through the Middle Ages, by which time it had developed into quite an elaborate monastic practice that was, by and large, inaccessible to the laity
One of many brilliant moves of Thomas Cranmer was to pare the medieval monastic hours of prayer down to the Daily Office of Matins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong (Evening Prayer) as it was included in the 1549 (and subsequent) Book of Common Prayer. Instead of learning Latin and praying 7 or 8 times a day, people could now pray twice a day in English, their native tongue.
2. Your Walk With God is About More Than Just Your Emotions
Growing up and into college, my “daily devotions,” “quiet time,” or the lack thereof frequently depended upon my emotions. When I felt super spiritual, maybe after a youth retreat or something, I was pretty regular in my daily devotions. However, as the emotional high faded, so did my daily quiet times.
It wasn’t until I discovered the Daily Office in seminary that I realized just how beneficial a structured approach to Scripture and prayer was. Doing the Daily Office, even when I didn’t (and don’t) particularly feel like it is a good reminder that (1) God desires faithful obedience and (2) I am more than just my emotions.
It’s called the Daily “Office,” by the way, as in Daily “Duty” or “Obligation.”
Wait, isn’t that legalism?? Well sure, your approach to the Daily Office can become legalistic. You can doggedly do it, even when you don’t feel like it, thinking that doing so is somehow earning you more of God’s love and favor.
But you would be wrong!
We don’t obey God’s commands in order to earn God’s love. Rather, we obey God’s commands because we have already been shown God’s love! We are commanded, for example, to love one another. But, of course, we love because God first loved us! (See 1 John 4.)
Here's the thing, though: For our own good, we still need to obey God, even when we don't feel like it!
Sure, there’s no explicit command in Scripture to “do the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer.” However, we are commanded to pray (and rejoice/give thanks, see 1 Thess. 5:16-18 for just one example). We are also commanded to heed God’s holy Word (see, for example, Josh. 1:8; Psalm 119; Matt. 4:4; 1 Tim. 4:13).
So, at the very least, the Daily Office gives us the opportunity to obey God’s commands - even when we don’t feel like it.
3. Scripture and Prayer Are Your Daily Food
Of course, Jesus said this best when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
I have found that doing the Daily Office, even when I don’t particularly feel like it, is a helpful reminder that Scripture and prayer are my daily food.
Do I remember exactly what I ate for breakfast last Wednesday? No.
Do I know that I ate something? Yes. Did it help keep me alive that day? Yes.
Similarly: Do I remember exactly what I read and prayed during Morning Prayer last Wednesday? No.
Do I know that I did Morning Prayer? Yes. Did it help to sustain and to shape me as a follower of Jesus Christ that day? Yes.
Sure, sometimes we will have moments of particular “transcendence” when reading the Bible and/or praying. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Scripture and prayer are only meaningful to the extent that they feel meaningful. That would be like thinking a meal is only a good meal when it’s a steak dinner or something spectacular.
Scripture and prayer are meaningful, valuable, and necessary, even when they don’t feel particularly earth-shattering on any given morning or evening during the Daily Office.
That’s OK. Do the Daily Office and trust that God is sustaining and shaping you, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
4. You Are Not Alone
Doing the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer is a great reminder that you are not alone when you’re reading the Bible and praying.
Ideally, this should be a very visible and tangible reminder! We should do the Daily Office with other Christians whenever possible.
However, even when you’re doing Morning or Evening Prayer “by yourself,” it’s comforting to know that Christians around the world (and, on another level, throughout history) are doing Morning and Evening Prayer. You are praying with (and, hopefully, for) the global, historic Church of Jesus Christ!
5. God Loves You, Even When You Can't Get Your Act Together and Do the Daily Office!
The Daily Office can be an encouragement - it can be good news - even when you fail to keep it!
Doing the Daily Office ought to remind us that our acts of faithful obedience are both meaningful and frail.
After all, it is so easy to forget or to skip Morning or Evening Prayer. It is so easy to fly through the prayers and the readings because we’re busy, tired, anxious, or all of the above. It is so easy to “fall short.”
And that’s OK! God still loves you!
Don’t fall prey to the lie that, if you can’t do the Daily Office perfectly, you might as well not do it at all.
No! Not true! None of us does anything perfectly!
Yet, God still loves us. And he still wants what’s best for us.
He wants our faithful obedience, but, in the comforting words of Psalm 103:14, “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
So, What Are You Waiting For? Try the Daily Office!
Here are three ways you can start doing the Daily Office, today!
Download the Rookie Anglican Daily Office Booklet.
Access the Daily Office from Mission St. Clare.
Access the Daily Office through the Trinity Mission.
Have Daily Office Questions? Ask Them in the Comments Below!
Also, check out my Rookie Anglican Guide to the Daily Office Lectionary.
This post originally appeared on Rookie Anglican, the blog I created to help make Anglican Christianity accessible to Anglicans and the Anglicurious.