Family Prayer: A Rookie Anglican Guide

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Do you want to introduce the Daily Office into the life of your family, but the length of those prayer times is a bit daunting for your small children? Or do you want a quick version to do yourself when you have a busy workday? Family Prayer is here to help! It is for exactly these reasons that the 2019 Book of Common Prayer includes simplified versions of each Daily Office on pages 67 through 74.

Prayer Throughout the Day

Family Prayer is a set of shortened offices first developed for the 1979 Prayer Book and retained for the 2019 version. Each is the equivalent of one of the four daily offices: In the Morning (Morning Prayer), At Midday (Midday Prayer), In the Early Evening (Evening Prayer), and At the Close of Day (Compline). These short offices help us, in the midst of our busy schedule, to follow Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). They help us reorient our minds and hearts to God in the midst of life’s many demands. For families, these offices are also a time to incorporate teaching the faith through intentional pauses in the day.

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The Structure of Family Prayer

Family Prayer follows the same basic structure as the daily offices: Preparation, Proclamation, and Prayer. However, Family Prayer does these in a much more simplified manner. The readings are shorter, and there are fewer given options for each. However, each of the services is still easy to modify as you see fit. For example, if you want to still use the reading of the Daily Office Lectionary, simply substitute those for the readings for Morning and Early Evening. Another method would be to divide the Morning Prayer readings between Morning and Midday and the Evening Readings between Early Evening and Compline.

Ultimately, the point of Family Prayer is to provide a way to do the Daily Office in a way that is sustainable, so choose a method that you can work into your daily rhythm.

Practicing Family Prayer

If a family is doing Family Prayer together, make it a participatory experience. Mom or Dad can say one part of the responsive sections of the liturgy, and the kids can say the other. This is a great way for kids to be involved, and it helps them begin memorizing important parts of scripture like important Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Nunc dimittis (the Song of Simeon). You can even include the Apostle’s Creed to help them learn the basics of Christian doctrine.

In the Morning

We begin our day with an office focused on God preparing our hearts and minds for the day ahead. This office is the Family Prayer equivalent of Morning Prayer, and elements from that service can be worked into this one as you desire.

Preparation

We begin our day with an opening sentence asking God for the ability to praise him: Psalm 51:15:

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth your praise.

Proclamation

Psalm 51:10-12 follows, said either responsively or in unison, followed by the Gloria Patri, a doxology seen throughout the Daily Office:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

We can also substitute Psalm 5:1-3 for Psalm 51:10-12. Immediately thereafter, a reading follows from one of four short passages of scripture: 1 Peter 1:3, Colossians 1:12-14, or Colossians 3:1-4. If desired, we can respond to the reading with a hymn or by reciting the Apostles’ Creed.

Prayers & Intercessions

After the proclamation, we offer prayers of intercession for ourselves and others. We then finish the office by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the morning collect.

At Midday

The midday office focuses and calms our hearts by reflecting on God’s sustenance and encouraging our continual praise of him. This office is the Family Prayer equivalent of Midday Prayer, and elements from that service can be worked into this one as you desire.

Preparation

The midday office begins with an opening sentence: Ephesians 1:3, which guides us to praise God the Father,

who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Proclamation

Psalm 113:1-4 follows, said either responsively or in unison, followed by the Gloria Patri. A scripture reading follows from either of two short passages: John 15:4-5 or Philippians 4:6-7.

Prayers & Intercessions

At this point, there is an open time to offer any prayers of intercession for ourselves and others. We then finish by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the midday collect.

In the Early Evening

As the sun sets, the evening office reminds us that Christ is the light of the world. This office is the Family Prayer equivalent of Evening Prayer, and elements from that service can be worked into this one as you desire. This Prayer Book suggests before or after the evening meal as a particularly appropriate time for this office.

Preparation

The early evening office begins with an opening sentence: Psalm 36:7,9. We follow the reading with a recitation, either together or responsively, of the Phos Hilaron. This is a late 3rd or early 4th-century hymn that is a staple in the Eastern Churches and entered Evening Prayer in the 1979 Prayer Book. Continuing the theme of light, this ancient hymn calls us to praise the Godhead:

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light, *
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If you want to learn how to chant the Phos Hilaron, see our guide here.

Proclamation

Next, one of three short scripture readings follows the Phos Hilarion: 2 Corinthians 4:5-6, John 8:12, or Revelation 3:20. Like with the morning office, we can respond with a hymn and/or the Apostles’ Creed.

Prayers

After the proclamation, we offer prayers of intercession for ourselves and others. We then finish the office by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the evening collect.

At the Close of Day

Our final office of the day invites us to seek Christ’s ongoing protection as we drift off to sleep. This office is the Family Prayer equivalent of Compline, and elements from that service can be worked into this one as you desire.

Preparation

The service begins with the opening sentence: Psalm 4:8.

Proclamation

The opening sentence is followed by Psalm 134, read either responsively or in unison. A short scripture reading follows from either of two short passages: Isaiah 26:3-4 or 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We can say a hymn or canticle as a response.

Prayer

After the proclamation, we offer prayers of intercession for ourselves and others. We follow this by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the evening collect. Finally, we say the Nunc dimittis (The Song of Simeon, Luke 2:29-32) and the Gloria Patri. If you want to learn how to chant the Nunc dimittis, see our guide here. We end our day with a concluding sentence:

The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless us and keep us, this night and evermore. Amen.

We’re Here to Help

This may feel like a lot, but we’re here to help. Check out our Daily Office Booklet for a simple version of morning and evening prayer. You can also check out DailyOffice2019.com, sponsored by Anglican House Publishing, for an online version of the Daily Office that you adjust to your own preferences, even for Family Prayer offices.


Cover image by FatCamera for Getty Images, courtesy of Canva.

Author

Jacob Davis

The Rev. Jacob Davis is the editor of Anglican Compass. He is a priest in the Diocese of Christ Our Hope and lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as assisting clergy at Grace Anglican Church.

View more from Jacob Davis

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