One of the big unspoken practices that Christians engage in yet struggle with and often causes enormous guilt is the ‘quiet time’. Interesting that the term ‘quiet time’ does not appear in the Holy Scriptures. I am not aware of the Apostles ever exhorting Christians at Rome, Corinth, Galatia or anywhere else to “not neglect your quiet time with God”. Yet Christians know that time with God in prayer and the word is vital, Christians know the value and the benefits of spending time with God in prayer and the Word . Yet I have met so many of God’s people when I ask them how they are going when it comes to prayer and the Word, a common response is one of discouragement and guilt, with the added embellishments such as:
“I don’t know what to read”; “I cannot seem to get into the rhythm”; “I run out of things to pray for”; and of course the big one, “I don’t have the time”. Being an Anglican priest, the context of which I asked this question is an Anglican one. Yet what I find interesting and rather sad is that so many Christians (who attend Anglican churches) are unaware of a practice that I have found to be so helpful in my own life, and that is the practice known as The Daily Office.
Recently at a Clergy Conference I heard it said that human beings are repetitive. Think about the hand you use when you talk on your mobile phone. Have you ever tried using your other hand? Or your other ear? It feels wrong doesn’t it? It is the same when you brush your teeth with your other hand. It feels wrong. There is no biological reason why we cannot use the phone in the alternate hand/ear, it is because we are creatures of habit. We all have rituals, and routines, and a place where we put things (as the saying goes, “a place for everything and everything in its place).
This is why I find the Daily Office such a helpful thing. It gives me the rhythm and routine that I am made for and at the same time makes prayer and the word part of that rhythm and routine.
So what is the Daily Office?
The Daily Office or Divine Office, is to put it simply, a time during the day where Christians prayer and read the Bible. it is based on the ancient practice of prescribed daily times of prayer. ” Although in my context the Prayer Book is not in vogue or used by most parishes, the Prayer book has a daily service in the morning and evening for this very purpose. These services are accompanied by daily Scripture readings which include a reading from the Psalms, Old Testament, and the New Testament..
J.I. Packer says,
“None of us will! ever find a better pattern for private prayer and Bible-reading anywhere than that offered by the Prayer Book’s own daily offices.”
Christians who struggle with their ‘quiet times’ need to struggle no longer, there is a great resource available to be used, if only they were made aware of it
I must confess that I am not a big fan of the modern prayer book. Here in Australia we have three Prayer Books:
- The AAPB (An Australian Prayer Book) – this came out here in Australia in 1978.
- The APBA (A Prayer Book for Australia) – this came out in 1995
- The BCP (Book of Common Prayer) – this came out in 1662
In private I use the BCP for the Daily Office. The BCP does not have services allocated to each day of the week, (as the AAPB and the APBA does) but simply has Morning and Evening Prayer. The other prayer books have these services but have been edited and modernised in such a way that although some may appreciate the change to the modern vernacular, much of the content of the prayers has been deleted in a way that I think is unhelpful.
The basis of the Bible readings come from what is called The Lectionary. Though the BCP has one built in. I use the Lectionary – In my experience most Evangelical Anglican parishes do not use the Lectionary, I find it to be helpful in that it systematically covers the OT, NT and the Psalms. And the times when I miss Morning or Evening Prayer (and yes it does happen), then when I take it up again, I can pick up where I left off. However one should be aware of the weakness of the Lectionary, and there are some:
- The Lectionary at times skips over certain passages (for example, one year it left out large chunks of Ephesians). When this happens I simply ignore the lectionary.
- Sometimes the Lectionary refers to books of the Apocrypha – although these books may be helpful insofar that they can be informative on the times between the Testaments, they are not God’s Word, not part of the Canon. So when this happens I simply choose another book of the Holy Scriptures.
However I feel that the strengths and benefits outweigh the weaknesses.
I was first introduced to the Daily Office when I was a candidate for ordination in the Newcastle Diocese. Although I was an Anglican Christian, I had not even heard of this practice. At first I found it to be very dull, repetitive and pedestrian. But after doing it every morning and every evening with my supervising Rector, I realised that my prayer life and Bible reading was changing. No longer was my quiet time dependent on how I felt on any given day when it came to prayer and Bible reading. Time was no longer an issue as it was a scheduled non-negotiable part of my day. When my supervising Rector retired, my new supervisor introduced me to doing Morning and Evening Prayer using the BCP. The theology of the BCP so encapsulated the theology of the Reformation that I was hooked. So now it is my norm to do the daily office using the BCP.
What do you need?
- A place and time – For me it is my study and every day at St Johns at 8am and 5pm, but if I am out or away I do it where ever I am.
- A Bible – For me I use the ESV. It has been my norm for ages.
- A Prayerbook – for me it is the BCP
- A Lectionary – here in Australia, we have two, one for 78 Prayer book (Australian Lectionary), and one for the 95 Prayer Book (An Australian Lectionary) but as I wrote earlier, the BCP has one built in.
- Smartphone or Ipad – this may seem like a weird thing to write, but there is an Daily Office BCP app for iPhones called Ipray. It contains the Morning and Evening Prayer Services with the Collects (special prayer for the week) for every day of the year. It has two other prayer times which are not in the original BPC (prayer at Midday & what is known as Compline (which is a service one usesbefore lights out for the night, which is in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. The Lectionary is one from America in 1922, and the Bible readings are in the KJV, (so I just switch to my ESV app when the readings come up). One does not have to use the lectionary in the App. But I have found this app that is very helpful particularly if I don’t have my Bible and Prayer book with me.
- Here is a video about the Ipray App
No. That is it. Just go for it. Take your time, enjoy God and his Word. If you miss a day, or several, don’t feel guilty, but it is certainly worth giving the Daily Office a go. And before you know it, when you asked “How is your quiet time going”? You can give an answer that is encouraging and will give cause to give thanks and praise to God!