For years, I have been the sort of person who advocates (at my personal blog, the pocket scroll) the ‘disciplined’ life — a life formed by those disciplines popularised by Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline, a life shaped by prayer, fasting, study of God’s Word, worship, contemplation, etc, etc.
For years, I have been the sort of person who advocates the Daily Office as part of that disciplined life. I have two BCPs (Canada, 1962 and 1662), Celebrating Common Prayer, Benedictine Daily Prayer and A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers. An Anglican priest I know in Cyprus sent me heaps of material they use at his church. I am involved from afar with Thunder Bay’s Urban Abbey, where they pray all 6 divine offices per day.
For years, I’ve prayed the Office. Occasionally. Here and there. Maybe a spurt of a week. Or a few days a week, here and there. Maybe even most/many days for a few months. And then… well, you know. Life.
We’re so busy in this post-post-modern world, aren’t we? Who really has time for the discipline of praying Cranmer’s offices, or even the shorter Franciscan one in Celebrating Common Prayer? I have academic articles to write, job applications to write, articles to revise. And vacuuming, and dishes, buying groceries, and spending time with my wife. I have books to read for my academic work. And articles. Frankly, who has the time?
When I think about my years of failure to live up to all the devotional ideals I promote, I know why failure attends my attempts. It is because I have beeen attempting the Daily Office and suchlike things alone.
When the Disciples came to our Lord and asked Him how to pray, His response was, ‘Our Father…’ Not, ‘My Father…’ St Paul in Ephesians 4:16 writes that we are ‘joined and knit together.’ One of the most popular biblical images for the redeemed People of God is the Body of Christ. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers not to give up meeting together. The Church, the ekklesia, is the assembly of God’s people.
An assembly is not solo. An assembly is together.
I have to confess here and now on this blog that I do not pray the office consistently. But being part of the Witness Cloud helps. I know for certain that other members of the group are praying as well. Praying the same words at the same hour of the day. Siblings in Christ, bound together by the power of God and the Blood of the Saviour. My prayers join theirs. This compels me to join, to pray the office.
Because prayer is not a solo event.