Morning and Evening Prayer, An Ancient Practice to Grow Our Faith
By Fr. Robert Osborne
The people of God have, from ancient times, prayed at fixed hours during the day. A rich tradition of praying several times a day was first established in the early Church. These daily prayer sessions used a liturgy that revolved around the Christian Calendar. Over time, this “Liturgy of the Hours” solidified into eight commonly used “Offices” for various times of the day, which became popularized by the monastic practices of the Middle Ages.
At the time of the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer and others sought to simplify a basic pattern of the Liturgy of the Hours and bring daily morning and evening offices into common parish life. Cranmer combined the eight medieval offices said by clergy and monastics into two offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, continuing the tradition of parochial and cathedral observance of Matins and Evensong. These were the most popular of the medieval hours of prayer in England, when devout members of the laity were most likely to be present before and after a hard day of work.
To this day, Episcopal clergy and laity are highly encouraged to pray the Morning and Evening Offices, corporately or in private. The practice of praying the “Daily Office” remains a vital part of Anglican tradition.
But I do not just want to share a history lesson; I want you to know, from personal experience, why praying the Daily Office is important.
First, when I pray, I know I am never alone. I am joining thousands and thousands of other Christians praying the same prayers and reading the same Scriptures. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus promises his followers that when two or three are gathered in his name, he will be present (Matt 18:20). The practice of corporate prayer is a movement of people from isolation toward the community of faith.
Second, the Daily Office has become a part of the liturgy of my life. Each day, I am keenly aware of how much I need to confess my sins and receive absolution. I have been formed by the Psalms to appreciate how God’s people experienced, and have continued to experience, the full range of human emotion. And, as I read from the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the Epistles every day, I am formed in accordance with the story of Scripture, which continues to become my story.
Last, the practice of daily prayer helps me to adopt and internalize the theological priorities, traditions, and perspectives of the Anglican Way into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Praying the Daily Office has taught me to listen and wait for the Lord to speak to me through the community of faith in life-altering ways.