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Praying the Daily Office

Praying the Daily Office

Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)

Psalm 114, 115 (Evening)

1 Kings 8:22-30(31-40);

1 Timothy. 4:7b-16;

John 8:47-59

On this opening weekend of the college football season, it’s probably appropriate that our reading in 1 Timothy uses sports imagery–the notion of “training ourselves in godliness,” comparing it to physical training. However, it wasn’t football that captivated the public at the time the Epistles were written–it was track and field.

Although sports were not so much a part of life among the ancient Hebrews, they did admire those who were fleet of foot, if we use stories from the Hebrew Bible as a reference. Foot racing was also a big part of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian culture–so it’s not surprising that this is the sport most referenced and used metaphorically in the Epistles. Foot racing is used metaphorically to describe perseverance, endurance, the “prize” of salvation, earthly loss, heavenly gain, and as illustrated in today’s reading, preparation.

Now, here’s my confession: Back in my sports-playing days, I hated running. It always seemed pointless to run if there was no ball to chase, or if someone wasn’t chasing me with a stick. Yet I also knew that if I didn’t get in condition, I wasn’t going to be playing a sport well, and not being in condition risked injury. So there it was. I had to do it, even though I found it not fun at all, and was, frankly, a pretty graceless runner if all we were doing was running. Honestly, I looked like a possum running. Still do. Now my speed pretty much matches a possum’s, also.

That said, we can’t jump headlong into having any kind of spiritual life that endures any more than we can put down our bag of potato chips, hop up, and run a 5K. We won’t finish, and I suspect every muscle or tendon in our bodies would be bound up tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge’s billfold.

But take heart–if you are a regular reader of Speaking to the Soul, it means one thing for certain–that you are engaging in the spiritual discipline of spending time with at least part of the Daily Office. The Daily Office is an example of one of the oldest spiritual disciplines–the combination of systematic reading of Scripture, combined with prayer. Whether you are a marathoner, doing all of one of the offices, an ultra runner who does all of the offices all the time, or a sprinter, doing bits of the offices in short bursts, you are training yourself just the same.

The Internet has opened amazing new possibilities for the regular practice of this discipline. We’re no longer forced to juggle Prayer Books and Bibles or invest in the rather premium-priced combination that has both the scheduled readings and the Prayer Book liturgies. We have websites and apps that make the Daily Office available to us any place, any time, via computers, tablets, and smart phones. The fact that these are used all over the world remind us that even when we seem to be praying the Daily Office physically by ourselves, we by no means are praying it alone.

Something else to remember about any spiritual discipline, as well as this one, is I think we all from time to time, spiritually suffer from some of the same maladies that overtake our physical exercise programs. We get bored and try other things. We get apathetic because we don’t always see progress or even see the point. We have other things in our lives that feel so pressing we decide we don’t have time for exercise. We sustain injuries that tell us to back off, or even lay off, once in a while. It’s probably important to be kind to ourselves when those maladies rear their heads.

Perhaps you are a person who’s visited this site and have considered being more regular about the Daily Office but haven’t quite made the jump to being in synch with that “daily” part. Now, I can’t promise a single concrete thing to encourage you to make that jump, but I can promise this–if you take the time to do at least one of the offices every day, even if you pick and choose a little about how much of it you will do, you will notice something. At the very least, if you are patient with yourself and earnest about that discipline, after a while you will notice when you have missed your usual spiritual discipline. Perhaps that “missing” it is the most important part of all. Perhaps it’s not what we “do” when we’re doing the Office, but it’s that the lack of it feels like we’ve missed our usual conversation with the Divine–and for a God who yearns to be in relationship with us, doesn’t it feel comforting that we yearn for that relationship right back?

What have you noticed from the practice of praying the Daily Office? What are you contemplating adding to your practice in the hopes of increasing your spiritual strength and endurance?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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Josh Thomas

As the lay vicar of dailyoffice.org, one of the Daily Office websites you refer to, I often say that if a visitor only looks at our pictures and reads the Collect of the Day, they've said the Office.

It's the turning-to-God that matters, as much as any or all of the words. Everyone has time for that; the written Office provides a structure.

Picking up on your (and St. Paul's) sports analogies, in high school and for decades afterward, I was a cross-country runner; I found it exhilarating. One of the central lessons of distance running is "let your momentum take you forward." It's a law of physics, and also of the spirit: forward motion moves you forward. Maybe that's why the earliest name for our faith was the Way.

It doesn't matter how fast you go; sprint or pace or trot or walk, you'll get closer and closer to the kingdom of heaven. God doesn't care if you use a wheelchair or a golf cart, just head for home.

Two and a half million page-views later, I can tell you many spiritual athletes are huge fans of the daily turning-to. Once they start, they just keep going.

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