During the height of the storm, as Hurricane Michael was passing through our diocese, there were 28 people from Episcopal churches all over the country gathered in my living room to pray for you all…virtually, but powerfully. I’d like for you to know how to do that too for whatever storms, joys or sorrows come your way from day to day.
I’ve been praying the daily office over the past 30 years...sometimes with a group of people in a seminary chapel where it was required of me as a either a seminarian or a faculty member; sometimes with my husband George in the morning or my young children in the evening; sometimes by myself sitting on the coach or listening a recording of others praying it while I drive to work; sometimes I use the Book of Common Prayer, and sometimes I use websites where it’s all organized and ready for me to just scroll through; but most of the time these days I join a live online congregation to pray together.
Why do I do that? I learned as a teenager attending an Episcopal church that, good Lord, I needed to pray to survive!...I literally wasn’t going to make it through any single day of my life without knowing that I was connected to God and to other people outside my limited family; I was desperate for some way of knowing in the difficult moments in all hours of the day and night that I was not alone and left to my own devices! So I had tried various ways of “freelancing” my prayer that I still practice today: Help! Thanks! Wow! But I’ve found over the past 40 years of trying that approach that while that is essential, it also isn’t enough...I need something more.
We pray because it brings us closer to God. But why would we need to pray the Daily Office? Because while there are many ways to pray, including our own individual cries to God of joy and sorrow and need, those prayers are intensely personal. However we are made in the image of a triune God for relationship, for community, and that means we need that kind of corporate, communal, relational closeness with God and others more than just once a week on Sunday. We need that every day! The Office is an ancient way to pray that gathers up all our prayers so that we can pray together. From monasteries to churches to private homes, people have been praying the Daily Office for thousands of years and know that they are supported, surrounded, and encouraged by each others’ prayers.
Why is this service called an “office”? Well, it’s an old-fashioned word. Originally “office” simply meant service, not the place where a service is performed or business is conducted. “Daily office” means the service of the day. When warring countries seek “the good offices” of the Pope or the UN, they’re not asking for a room at the Vatican or the Secretariat; they’re asking for a go-between for peace. But to make peace, they need some services performed. This is the sense in which the word is used here. Office means service, not just place.
The Daily Office Network is an online congregation publishing Morning and Evening Prayer. They webcast live services almost 600 times a year and welcome 350,000 visitors every year, equaling the National Cathedral. They have their own Christian radio station and podcasts ready-on-demand. Yet they have the carbon footprint of an LED light bulb and the budget of a PTA. I count myself as one of their members, and we have members of many denominations in all 50 states and 200 countries; we are Protestant and Catholic both. We provide Episcopal services for people rural and urban, rich and poor, shut-in and on the go; we offer a safe place for those who have been alienated and abused, and we’re a great place for questions and dialogue. And we have a lot fun together, while engaging the most serious questions a person can ever face.
We invite you to drop in on one of our live services - anytime. You don’t have to speak or participate in any way; just listen to the sound of these voices.
During this Advent season and new year, you may want to pray with us, once or maybe even twice a day, every day for 30 days, and You’re Bound to Get Closer to God™ - as Josh Thomas, the Vicar of this community says: “there is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do; that’s not a trademark, that’s a fact; people who say the Daily Office regularly gain such spiritual awareness that when we bring them together with inexpensive live-streaming technology, the results are astounding.”