All Saints Anglican  All Saints’ Church
Greenville, SC REC Reformed Episcopal ACNA Anglican Church in North America Parish 1928 BCP 1928 Book of Common Prayer Divine Hours Daily Offices Breviary terce sext compline prime vespers

Offices Introduction


I. Preamble  Skip to

 

II. History                                                              Skip to


III. The Pressing Need for the Offices                Skip to

 

IV. How to Use the Offices                                   Skip to



 V. Go to the Daily Offices  
  


Preamble 

If Christ had not entered human history, in human flesh, and died on the Cross creation would have been lost to the futility and ultimate destruction brought about by the fall of man (Genesis 3:17/Roman 8:20-21). Likewise, mankind, all history and every human accomplishment would have been lost.

However, Christ did come and on the Cross He radically redeemed the fate of creation, the entirety of history, and the future of all who believe in Him. Because of Christ, mankind and the creation bound to man’s fate are not irrevocably lost. Instead, we are looking for a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). The result is that Christ has sanctified all place and time to His purpose. God has not conceded a single aspect of His original creation. His Kingdom will come and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Daily Hours are born out of this reality. They proclaim God as Lord over all creation and remind God’s people that they are sent out into the world to call all mankind to believe and obey His Son, Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Daily Hours remind believers that they are to offer to God what is rightfully His. We are to offer God all time, our every use of His creation, and our loving obedience. As such, the Hours maintain that the believer’s first duty throughout the day is to set it apart to God. That is, we are to consecrate the entire day from within the day (i.e. during or throughout the day- Psalm 119:164). In short, we are to bathe our days in prayer.

Finally, because God has redeemed creation and will make the whole earth His garden sanctuary (Hab 2:14/Rev 21:1-3), the Daily Hours remind God’s people that, like Moses, we serve on holy ground, in holy time, and undertake a holy mission.

Almighty and most merciful Father, who through the blood of thy Son, hath reconciled all things to yourself, both in heaven and on earth; hear our prayers throughout these hours and so sanctify this day; that in all our doings, we may proclaim thee as Lord and show forth thy coming Kingdom; and grant, that doing all our tasks in thy name, we may do them with righteousness, love, and excellence. This we ask for our help and thy Glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

History of the Hours 

From Old Testament times on God’s people sought to offer the whole of their day and all their various doings to God.  The Daily Offices then provide concrete expression to this God-centered devotion and view of life. Traditionally, there are seven hours of prayer (or seven times in the day when God’s people stop to pray). The reason is that seven is the complete number. Thus, God’s people are offering the whole day to God. This same notion was visibly represented by the seven lights of the Temple Lamp (the Menorah) and later by the “Office Candles” still seen in many churches today.

Psalm 119:164 Seven times a day I praise Thee, Because of Thy righteous ordinances.

The practice of offering the whole of the day to God continued in the New Testament era and down through Church History.

Luke 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

Canon LXIV of the Nicene Council concerns the Daily Hours and assumes their practice.

In fact, the Daily Offices were only relegated to the monasteries during the Middle Ages when people no longer spoke Latin and thus the prayers, (along with Scripture and the worship services) were lost to them.

Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer sought to provide a correction to the problem. It returned the Offices to the language of the people. At the same time, Cranmer sought to simplify the Offices, removing from them the very complex monastic form that they had assumed during the Middle Ages. It was thus that Cranmer combined all the hours into the two main Offices, Prime and Vespers (Morning and Evening prayer). Likewise he returned them to the common worship of the people. However, while this was a much needed reform, it was limited by the constraints of its time. As such it only recaptured a portion of that which had been lost to the hours during the Middle Ages. For example, the Prayer Book Offices were intended for formal worship rather than devotion set in the midst of the workday. Likewise, the Offices were too long for most people to say at regular intervals throughout the day.

The Offices presented here are an attempt to continue what others before began. They are in no way to be construed as an attempt to replace or supplant the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. Instead, they are meant to complement them by providing a vital aspect of the prayer life of God’s people that the Prayer Book Offices were not intended to address. The Prayer Book seeks to provide corporate prayer services for a formal worship setting. The Hours aim to provide corporate prayer services that are joined by God’s people throughout the day in the midst of their daily occupations. As such, they seek to enable God people as a people to offer the whole day to God from within that day.


The Pressing Need 

The vital need for parishes today is to organize themselves into communities of prayer able to endure amid and minister to a culture that is growing ever more pagan and hostile.

These communities are not an attempt to regain an idealized version medieval monasticism with its withdrawal and disconnected mysticism; nor are they a mere acceptance of the sporadic, private, and self-based devotion of much of current evangelicalism.

Rather, God’s people remain in the world and engage in the world’s daily occupations.  However, these communities do not capitulate to the world. Rather, they seek God from amid the world as they pray at their desks, in their schools, and homes. Notice then, the Offices are written in corporate (plural) language in order to underscore the fact that throughout town, at the same hour, God’s people are praying the same service, seeking the same end.

As God’s people once again pray the daily offices amid their various occupations, their focus is renewed, their faith is fortified, and their mission is reinvigorated. At the same time, their interdependence as a body is demonstrated in concrete fashion. Finally, corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is seen not as an isolated hour of retreat once a week. Rather, it returns to its rightful place as the most comprehensive expression of the life that is ours throughout the week. In other words the Lord’s Day is the culmination of our service and prayers from the week past and our preparation and strengthening for the week ahead.

One last point: the offices reintroduce the notion of discipline woefully missing from most evangelical devotion. Devotion presupposes worth and value (we are devoted to what we value). As such, devotion prompts us to guard and prioritize what we value. The result is that the Offices require that discipline be added to our prayer life. Yet this discipline is one that is without rigidity. Instead, it is both firm in its commitment and flexible in its implementation. In other words, it is able to adapt to the ever-changing schedules and demands of our daily lives and committed enough to actually do so.


Practical How To 

The Daily offices are meant to be flexible and fit into your Schedule. For example, if your day starts at 5, start the hours then. If it starts after the kids get dropped off at school, start the hours at that time. The point is, work them into the rhythm of your day.

The hours assume a daily time of focused Scripture reading. They do not replace it. One may use their Scripture time in place of one of hours, incorporate it into the hour, or use the collects to end their time of Scripture reading. Again find what works for you.

Note: in this series of hours, Prime through Compline is the normal routine. Laud (3am) assumes that if you are up during the middle of the night, it is because you have something on your mind or can’t sleep. Laud is structured for those occasions. That said, you may want to use the Office of Laud at the hour of Prime one or two times just to get a feel for what it is about. 

It may be hard to do all the offices each day. Therefore, you might arrange them like this:

Monday: do Prime in the morning, Sext around lunch, and Vespers at the end of the work day. Then end the day with Compline just before bed.

Tuesday: start with Terse in the morning, None around lunch, and Vespers at the end of the work day. Then end the day with Compline just before bed.

Or maybe you will simply remember that the Offices are here and go through the noonday Office one day during a long lunch break, or the mid afternoon prayer while waiting in a carpool line, or the Compline service on an evening when you feel God drawing you to Him.

Regardless, find what works for you. Be flexible enough to fit the hours into the particulars of your schedule and committed enough to do so.

Each office should take 7-10 minutes. Therefore, do not dilly-dally or belabor points. At the same time, do not rush. Instead, stay focused and offer your worship to God.

Remember a prayer is never read. It is not a prayer until it is offered.

When saying the Offices by yourself, read both the Leader’s portion (marked with a “V”) as well as the responses (marked with a “R”). For example:

V. Receive, O Lord, our prayers this hour

R. The offering to you of this day. Amen.

When saying an Office with others, have one person read the Leader’s portion (V) and the others read the responses (R). Anything not marked with a V or R is either to be said in unison (e.g. the confession of sin and the Lord’s Prayer) or it is done by the Leader (e.g. the Collects).

A “Collect” is another term for “prayer of the day”. It is so called because it is the corporate (or collective) prayer of the whole congregation. The Collect used in the Offices during the week is generally the Collect from the past Sunday (unless otherwise specified). There will be a Tab imbedded in each office that will take you to the Collects for that particular season. To find which Collect to use, there will be a link on the main Office page (the one you were just on) that will tell you which liturgical week it is and thus which collect to use (for example, if it is the first week of Advent, you will use the Advent 1 Collect). However, if all this is a bit confusing, don’t worry. Just use the prayers already included in the Office and you will be fine.

Remember, while you will need to be disciplined and committed, the Offices are to be a blessing and joy. They are never to be a guilt motivated bourdon. If you forget and miss an Office, pick up with the next one when it comes around.

The routine that works for me is this: I say the Offices throughout the work week. However, Friday nights and Saturdays are family time. Therefore, these times are less structured Office-wise. I simply end Saturday with the special Compline service for the eve before Worship, which is a preparation for Worship the next day. Sunday is also less structured Office-wise. The reason is that corporate worship on the Lord’s Day proclaims and sanctifies the day as the Lords. On Sunday then, God’s people worship as a people and then rest from all their labors, enjoying the fruits thereof. This is what works for me. Find what works for you.

May God bless you as you join His people in prayer!

  

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