Getting Started with the Daily Office: A Rookie Anglican Guide

By

Let’s face it: to the modern ear, “Daily Office” sounds more like your workplace than your prayer routine. However, while this “office” is not the workplace that it sounds like, it is, in a certain sense, a task or, more appropriately, a vocation. The odd name comes from the Latin officium divinum, which means “divine duty.” By stepping into the Daily Office, we employ ourselves to the holy occupation of prayer. Through it, we commit ourselves to St. Paul’s decree for Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) and St. James’ appeal to “pray for one another” (James 5:16).

If you’ve picked up a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, you’ve probably seen these four liturgies toward the very beginning. Or perhaps you’ve downloaded Anglican Compass’ Daily Office Booklet, a simplified version. Maybe you’ve even been tempted to try them, but you’ve found it overwhelming. So, what is the Daily Office, why does it exist, and how should we use it?

Sponsored

What is the Daily Office?

The Daily Office is a set of four daily prayer liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer. The two principal services are Morning and Evening Prayer, with shorter services of Midday Prayer and Compline said at noon and before bed. The four-part rhythm is:

In the Rookie Anglican Guide to Morning Prayer, David Smith explains that these prayer services are the “most basic building blocks of Anglican life;” they are “scripts” that walk you through “confessing sin, worshipping God, reading scripture, and praying for yourself and others.”

Each daily office follows the structure of Preparation, Proclamation, and Prayers.

  • Preparation: A transition into the time through praise.
  • Proclamation: Psalms and readings from the Daily Office Lectionary (pages 734-763 in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer).
  • Prayers: Our intercessions for ourselves and others.

The History of the Daily Office

Winfield Bevins writes in the book Simply Anglican (published by Anglican Compass),

The Daily Office originated from the Jewish practice of daily prayer in the Old Testament. God commanded the Israelite priests to offer sacrifices of animals in the morning and evening (see Exodus 29:38-39). As time went on, the Jewish people began to follow Torah readings, psalms, and hymns at fixed hours of the day… Based on this routine, Christians began to order their prayer life around these times of the day.

In the Early Middle Ages, St. Benedict of Nursia crafted a monastic rule establishing a prayer time every three hours. This rule became popular throughout the medieval church. During the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, condensed these into two daily offices, Morning and Evening Prayer, while crafting the Book of Common Prayer. Later editions of the Prayer Book, particularly the 1979 and 2019 editions, have restored Midday and Compline (night) offices.

Why Pray the Daily Office?

What’s so great about the Daily Office?

The most concise answer is that it centers our day on God through prayer. In the words of the great Anglican priest and poet George Herbert, “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” When we practice it, we constantly reorient our minds and hearts toward God by starting and ending our day with these prayer times and a couple of additional times along the way. This helps us adopt an attitude of praying “without ceasing.” Because it gives us four times of dedicated prayer, the spirit of prayer then permeates the rest of our day. As Bevins describes,

The daily office can help center you in the morning before you begin your busy day, and it can help calm you as you prepare for the hours of the night. You can use the Daily Office at your own pace. As you follow the Daily Office, allow yourself to slowly get into the rhythm of praying it in the morning and evening. you might find that, like millions of other Christians through the centuries, praying the Daily Office is an enriching personal experience.

For more on why we should pray the Daily Office, check out Joshua Steele’s article, “Christian, Do the Daily Office: Five Things You Can Learn from Morning and Evening Prayer.”

How Do I Begin?

Now that we know how the Daily Office came about, how do we get started? Here are a few pointers to assist you as you begin your Daily Office journey.

Familiarize yourself with the Daily Office’s structure and purpose.

It helps to know the structure behind the prayer offices so you can follow its shape and, through that, how it shapes us. At Anglican Compass, we have written guides accompanying you through the daily offices. Check out our Morning PrayerMidday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline guides. We recommend reading these in order of the day, starting with our Morning Prayer guide. These will help you navigate the basic structure of each prayer office and point out significant themes within them.

Start small with one or two prayer times during the day.

You don’t have to do all four prayer times at the very beginning—or at all. The Daily Office was made for you, not you for the Daily Office. Here are three possible places to start your Daily Office practice:

  • Compline: Bedtime is a natural time for prayer, so use Compline’s short, unchanging office to wind down. Be assured by its passages about God’s protection as you prepare for sleep. Once you’ve settled into a rhythm with Compline, begin to bookend your day by waking up to Morning Prayer.
  • Morning and Evening Prayer: These are the two original offices in the Prayer Book. Use our simple Daily Office Booklets, which already provide the list of daily scripture readings, to quickly settle into a rhythm as you begin and end the busy portion of your day.
  • Family Prayer: These are abbreviated forms of all four prayer offices found on pages 67 through 74 in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer, and each can be prayed in less than 10 minutes. While designed for families with small children, they work equally well as prayer anchors for people with busy lives. Each one covers the basic structure of a Daily Prayer office in micro, giving us a chance to interrupt our busyness and take a breath with God. Check out our guide for the Family Prayer liturgies.

Utilize online resources for guidance.

There are abundant resources to lean on as you begin your journey.

  • If you don’t yet have a Book of Common Prayer, or you want a version of the Daily Office that is portable and easy to navigate, we have a solution! We’ve been crafting a Daily Office booklet for several years that guides you through a simplified version of Morning and Evening Prayer, the two oldest and most principal offices.
  • Likewise, our friends at DailyOffice2019.com have a fully customizable web and app version of the Daily Offices, including Family Prayer. Its settings are easily adaptable to however you’d wish to pray the office.

We’re Here to Help

At Anglican Compass, we’ve amassed years of resources on the Daily Office and prayer to help you on your journey. Also, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Photo by doidam10, 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

Comments

Please comment with both clarity and charity!

Subscribe to Comments
Notify of

3 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments