Last Sunday we listened to testimonies about how God is at work in the lives of people in the Restoration family. We noticed a theme as each person shared—everyone mentioned praying the Daily Office! The Daily Office isn’t the only way to pray but it is a significant part of Anglican spiritual practice that we find in the Book of Common prayer. We would like to introduce the practice to those who are new to Anglicanism and encourage all of us to grow in a habit of prayer. Over the next few weeks on our blog we will hear from members of the Restoration community about how the Daily Office shapes and strengthens their relationship with God. This week’s post is by the Rev. Kolby Kerr who leads Morning Prayer each Tuesday Morning on Facebook.
This past Sunday, Jed invited several members to share a little bit about how God has been working in their lives. Each of them talked about the significance of the prayer book and the daily office in establishing their relationship with Christ.
Like perhaps many of you, my younger self would have believed this was impossible. In my early life, I believed that Jesus came to rescue us from ‘rote religion.’ A real relationship with Jesus originated deep inside your heart—you had to feel it—and no written prayer could ever capture that.
But (also like perhaps many of you) over time, I found that the burden of conjuring up the right feelings, the right thoughts, the right words was exhausting—and dangerous. I found myself stuck in panic-inducing loops of self-analysis: Was that prayer genuine? Did I say the right things? Did I say it in a way that was meaningful and beautiful? If I did, how could it be genuine? My pride would puff up as I pontificated, and then the other half of my mind would heap shame on me for being phony. Prayer was a stressful experience that was rapidly becoming just a heated conversation with myself.
Over coffee one morning this week, a friend of mine remarked on my unique ability to overanalyze my every thought and motivation. He’s not wrong.
That’s why the Anglican way has been such a relief for me. In our worship service, there’s no mood lighting or fog machines meant to whip into an emotional frenzy, and there’s no 40-minute sermon forcing me toward a watershed intellectual or emotional epiphany. Instead, I offer my worship alongside everyone else—not just those gathered in that space, but around the world. And all of the activity of the service, focuses on the work of Christ for us and for the world. What I do or feel in the service pales in significance to what Christ has done, to what Christ feels for me and for his church.
And of course, worship isn’t confined to Sunday. Everything that’s true of our worship is true of the Daily Offices in the Book of Common Prayer. These short prayer services (composed for individuals, families, or congregations) aren’t like a devotional book that promises an insight that will make us grow. Nor are they like a worship album meant to put us in a heightened emotional state. Instead, they are daily invitations to join with the church across time and space in receiving God’s grace, being fed by his word, and offering our thanks, our praise, and our needs.
Best of all (at least for me), the prayer book short circuits my anxieties about getting it right and being real. It’s an irony that’s been noted by many who have experienced it, but there’s an incredible sense of liberation that comes from tethering your prayers to written texts.
My younger self is still in here somewhere, reminding all of us that there’s no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to our devotional lives. Given our fallen natures and all the anxieties and insecurities that come along with it, we will muddle our way through most of our attempt to communicate with God. But the daily office has at least helped to still that little voice inside me that worries that every prayer is a performance and God is the scrutinizing judge. It lets my prayers at least get out of my head—I trust from there they can find their way.
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to invite others to share their stories of practicing the daily office and to share resources for those who may be wanting to explore the prayer book for the first time. If you’re looking for an ‘on-ramp’, I host a morning prayer service on Facebook Live on Tuesdays before I head to school (no judgement if you follow along later in the morning). I still have to shake off feelings of fraudulence in leading that time, because I’m still such a novice and prodigal pray-er. I’m inconsistent and unfocused. Inattentive and unfeeling. But I’m comforted knowing that the worship of God goes on despite my failings, and the next day—even the next hour—invites me again to join with Christ’s church in prayer.