Friday, 7 March 2014

Pray the Office to keep a holy Lent


One of the greatest innovations of the Reformers of our church was to take the daily prayers that had been prayed only by monks and priests and put them into a simplified form in the common language so that everyone could join in. That is the point of the offices of Morning and Evening offices in the Book of Common Prayer: they are for everyone, in 'common,' to say every day.
Nowadays, we have a much more varied range of resources available to us for our daily prayer. The downside of this is that while there used to be just one book, there are now far more to choose from, and so most people do not bother with any of it. That is a shame, as the discipline of praying the psalms and reading another passage or two from Scripture each day can be a powerful way of keeping God close at hand.
So, if you haven't already chosen a Lenten discipline, perhaps you could give this a try? Even just once a day is better than nothing a day! At the back of church, you will find some folded bits of A4 card with a simplified form of Morning and Evening prayer on it. That and a Bible is all you need - it gives you a four-weekly pattern of readings for morning and evening.
If you're looking for something a little meatier, you could try the following, which gives you psalms, one reading from the Bible and one reading from the saints and broader Church tradition each day. It's perfect if you're only going to pray once a day:
http://www.universalis.com/readings.htm
Or if you're not shy of Tudor language, you could even pick up a Book of Common Prayer and have a go at the offices from there!
Lastly, for the truly bold, there is the option of joining me at St Peter's, Berkhamsted at 7.30 each morning (except Saturday, 9am) and/or 5pm each evening (except Monday, 5.45pm) for the more complicated but very full provision of the Breviary.
I must warn you, if you take up the Daily Office, that while sometimes bits of Scripture can really stand out and catch your attention, at other times it becomes routine and is not terribly exciting. That is part of the point: to sustain us in prayer regardless of our feelings about it, and to become a habit that forms the way we think and act through our slow absorption of God's holy word. If it seems dry, we do well to remember that dried fruits may have a sweeter flavour to the taste of Our Lord!

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