From my observation of the spiritual condition of church members today I can’t help but conclude that many are living off of other people’s spirituality, are stuck in their spiritual journey, and exist with only a one-inch-deep spiritual life. Similarly, my observation of the spiritual condition of church staff members today suggest that many are physically, spiritually, and emotionally tired, struggle to stop hair on fire life and ministry, and pray and commune with God relatively little compared to their earlier days in ministry.
Both church members and staff seem to lack the disciplines that cultivate our personal relationship with God, the practices that cause us to continually pay attention to God and what He is saying and doing, and the habits that foster a familiarity with God’s presence throughout the day.
In my life time I have seen my own denomination shift from primarily preaching and teaching about having a personal relationship with God to emphasizing and facilitating worship, bible study, and being on mission for God. I fear that in our good intentioned emphasis on the “head” and “hands,” or learning about and doing for God, we have malnourished the “heart” and “soul,” or knowing and experiencing God.
Prioritizing intentional training and accountability in nurturing the inner spiritual life…..the connecting, communing, and experiencing intimacy with God that leads to Godliness, appears to be missing in many of our churches. And, clearly, our emphasis on morning quiet times and devotions aren’t resulting in the transformation we would hope for. An alternative is the Daily Office, an ancient spiritual discipline, that when practiced until it becomes habit, can cause us to pay attention to God throughout the day and nurture our relationship with him.
The Daily Office History
The word office comes from the Latin word opus, translated in English as “work.” For the early church, the Daily Office signified the “work of God,” demonstrated through fixed hours of prayer to which nothing was to interfere. In fact, along with the Lord’s Supper, fixed hour prayer is considered the oldest practice of Christian spirituality.
The Daily Office is patterned after the practices of early devout people of faith. We know that King David practiced set times of prayer seven times a day (Psalm 119:164). Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). After Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples continued to pray at fixed hours of the day (Acts 3:1; 10:2-23). In his Rule, Benedict formalized the Offices for monks and laymen around eight Daily Offices. All of these people realized that stopping throughout the day to “be” with God, even if it meant to stop “doing for” God, was the key to experiencing God’s continual presence.
The Daily Office reorients the one who practices it, momentarily turning one’s focus from the experiences and responsibilities of daily life, to the Creator of life. It is not so much a turning to God to get something as it is about simply being with God and communing with Him.
Elements of the Daily Office
Over the centuries various forms of the Daily Office have evolved, differing for monks, clergy, and laity and even by denomination. Typical elements of the Daily Office include:
- Silence, Stillness, Contemplation
- Scripture Reading
- Devotional Reading
- Reflection, Meditation
Observing the Daily Office obviously takes a great deal of discipline, whether practiced twice or eight times a day. In the end, each of us must look realistically at our lives and determine how the Daily Office might fit into our spiritual practices. Fortunately, in recent years a number of resources have been published that provide a structure for the novice to begin practicing the Daily Office.
On the concise end, Peter Scazzero provides a twice a day format in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality…..A 40 Day Journey with the Daily Office. The most expansive resource is the three-volume Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. She has compiled the most well-known resources on the Daily Office, updated the archaic language, and put them into practical and usable form. In the forward Phyllis Tickle writes:
“Asking me why I keep the Daily Office is like asking me why I go to church. One, granted, is a place of bricks and mortar, but the other is a chapel of the heart, as powerful a place, albeit one of the spirit. The Daily Office opens to me four times a day a call to remember who owns my time. All that means really is that four times a day the watchmaker and I have conversation about the clock and my place as a nanosecond in it.”
Posted on July 31, 2018