Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why Pray the Daily Office?

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer provides services for morning and evening prayer called the Daily Office (online here). These services were developed by Thomas Cranmer during the English Reformation. Cranmer's goal was to take the ethos of the monastary, and its centering of life on the work of prayer, and return it to the life of the parish.

Morning and Evening prayer combine set prayers, psalmody and scripture reading. Many of the same prayers and canticles are prayed over and over, day after day. This practice eventually gets dry and boring. But it is in the very repetitive nature of the the Daily Office that its formative power lies.

The Daily Office shares with the eucharistic liturgy the posture of offering. One does not do the Daily Office primarily to be fed or to have an affective experience of God. One does the Daily Office to offer oneself to God. By saying the prayers, reciting the Psalms, reading the scripture, one dies to one's self and gives one's self to the prayers that the church asks us to pray.

When the Office gets dry and boring it is just beginning to do its w0rk on us. When it becomes dry and boring were are finally in the place where the office is no longer "about us." At that stage one has to say no to one's self and do the Office.

This is why one ought to pray the Daily Office -- to die to oneself and by the grace of God grow in sanctification through dying to one's self.

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