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October 29, 2003
The early morning rain is coming down hard, outside in the dark: I can hear it rushing through the gutter outside my window. A lovely morning to be up very early: I have puttered through email, packed up books to mail to people. I have made inquiries of several people about arrangements I have made with them about events in the near future -- I cannot recall any of the details of what I have agreed to do. I never can. I always have to be told. The wee hours are a good time to admit to such lapses via email -- one can be fairly certain of not getting an immediate kind response. It is humiliating in an adult to have to be told things several times, but there it is.

Any time after 4am is fair game for Morning Prayer -- any earlier than that and it would be something else. When I spend the night at the convent, I attend Morning Prayer with the sisters, and I stand and kneel as they stand and kneel. But at home I have three Morning Prayer postures: 1) sitting in a chair before the icons on my little prayer table,
with my large Office Book
2) lying in a hot lavender bath with my small Office Book
3) sitting at the computer, reading the Office at Mission St. Clare is great.
You don't look up a thing. They do it all for you.

"The Daily Office" is what the Church calls the daily cycle of liturgical prayer. "Office" as in "work." Not just any work, though: the term "office" implies work that is expected or required. The Office is something you do because of what you are. The office of a firefighter is to fight fires. The office of a cruise director is to make sure everyone on board is having a good time. And the office of a person of faith is to pray.

Of course, you can pray any way you like. You don't have to use an office book. But I have found that it is easy not to pray when I do not have a regular rule for doing so. I may tell myself that I will just pray when something comes to me, spontaneously, and I may do that. But I also may not.

And I want to. I want to invest in my prayer. I want to be a stakeholder. I want to train myself to be the kind of person for whom prayer is an office, something expected of me. Something I expect of myself. Something I do because of who I am. A rule helps. The dependable presence of beautiful ancient prayers helps. Candles and the spiritual window into heaven that icons provide help.

Nobody has to do this. Nobody's going to hell because they don't say the Daily Office. Actually, I suspect that nobody's going to hell at all, but that's an essay for another day.

The times of the various components of the Daily Office are set. They're called the "hours." Modern Anglicans ordinarily do four of the hours -- Morning Prayer, Noonday, Evening Prayer and Compline -- although some do all of the ancient seven.

We didn't invent the hours. The Jews have ancient hours of prayer, too. Muslims have them, too. It is moving to walk through a city in a Muslim country and hear the hours proclaimed from the minarets all across the town at the same time, several times a day. It is as if the city were soaked with God. And, of course, the city is soaked with God. All cities are. And all landscapes. And the sky, from which the rain falls like a blessing.
And the sea, from which we crawled, gasping for a breath that then was graciously given us so that we could live on the land, make cities and gardens, airplanes and windmills and prayer books, so that we could know days and nights, the hours of them.

"Let us bless the Lord" is how each Office ends.

And the reply is "Thanks be to God."


Would it be a help to you to covenant with me to pray Morning Prayer every day? Sometimes it helps, in developing or regaining a discipline, to have a friend do it with you. Here is something we could try:

1) I will say Morning Prayer myself. I will say it most days.

2) When I have finished, I will send you an email that says
"Let us bless the Lord."

3) When you have finished, you send me one back that says
"Thanks be to God."

Remember that you or I will sometimes miss Morning Prayer, and that this isn't the end of the world. Don't fall into the trap of turning your prayer life into a job: it may be an office, and it may be a work, but it's not a job. A job is something you do for someone else. The Daily Office is something you do for you. The best way to torpedo your prayer life is to think that prayer is a job. It isn't a job at all. It's a gift.

If you'd like to try out our Morning Prayer covenant for a few weeks, send me an email saying so.

If you'd rather not -- don't.
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