Daily Office: Growing in Christ Through Intentional Prayer Times

Blog Post | What is the Daily Office? Let's look at this ancient practice of spending regular, intentional time with God as we seek to grow in Christ.

Why Aren’t We Spending More Time With God?

Do you ever read your Bible and ask yourself, “Why am I not doing what this says?”

This happened to me today. I came across several passages that talked about prayer, with an emphasis on stopping multiple times a day to pray and spend time with God.

Conviction gripped me as I realized that I’m far from experiencing this radical kind of prayer life. But, is it really so radical? Or are we simply so far removed from the 1st century church and Old Testament lifestyle that our current lack of time with God would be considered radically insane by the likes of Paul or Peter or John?

This was all brought to my attention as I was reading Peter Scazzero’s book about healthy spirituality. About 2/3 of the way through the book, he introduces the idea of the Daily Office.

The term Daily Office (also called fixed-hour prayer, Divine Office, or liturgy of the hours) differs from what we label today as quiet time or devotions. When I listen carefully to most people describe their devotional life, the emphasis tends to be on “getting filled up for the day” or “interceding for the needs around me.” The root of the Daily Office is not so much a turning to God to get something but to be with Someone.
 — Scazzero, Peter (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature)

After defining this, he goes on to show the reader several instances of the Daily Office throughout the Bible.

David practiced set times of prayer seven times a day (Psalm 119: 164). Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6: 10). Devout Jews in Jesus’ time prayed two to three times a day. Jesus himself probably followed the Jewish custom of praying at set times during the day. After Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples continued to pray at certain hours of the day (Acts 3: 1 and 10: 9ff). About A.D. 525, a good man named Benedict structured these prayer times around eight Daily Offices, including one in the middle of the night for monks. The Rule of St. Benedict became one of the most powerful documents in shaping Western civilization.
 — Scazzero, Peter (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature)

And, just in case you need a few more examples!

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150–215) and Origen (A.D. 185–254) refer to prayer three times a day. Tertullian, Cyprian, and Hippolytus (all third century) refer to more times of prayer. By the fourth century, many churches had daily public morning and evening prayers. Regular attendance was expected. Ambrose of Milan (339–397) wanted all Christians to attend each morning.
 — Arthur Paul Boers (The Rise and Fall of the Daily Office)

In this we see the rich history of the Daily Office. With the rise of monks and monasteries, the practice took on a formality that often times became legalistic. But this shouldn’t scare us off from customizing the practice for our personal use. I think Thomas Cranmer puts it best in the foreword to his the original Book of Common Prayer that was used during the Daily Office of the Church since the late 1500s:

“There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted: As, among other things, it may plainly appear by the Common Prayers in the Church, commonly called Divine Service. The first original and ground whereof if a man would search out by the ancient Fathers, he shall find, that the same was not ordained but of a good purpose, and for a great advancement of godliness. For they so ordered the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over every year; intending thereby, that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers in the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation in God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves and be more able to exhort others by wholesome Doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the Truth; and further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion.”
 — Thomas Cranmer (The Book of Common Prayer)

Fortunately we aren’t alone in this pursuit. Many have gone before us. And many are paving the way still. An abundance resources are available to help you ease your way into a structured yet flexible practice of the Daily Office. Here are some that I look forward to using:

Originally published at heinspiredme.com.

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