If you’re going to live like a monk you should learn to pray like one.
If you had described the past week to me a month ago I would not have believed you. Schools, churches, workplaces, retailers, restaurants all forced to close their doors and find other ways to continue. News sounding a constant drum beat of fear about a coming wave of viral infection, financial collapse, and the mass disruption of our society. We are at the very beginning of understanding what this all means.
On a personal level, we are adjusting to life at home. Working from home. Schooling from home. Everything at home. Depending on your temperament this could be good or bad news. We are suddenly living the cloistered lives of monks tucked away in our cells. Except that you share the space with your grumpy preschooler, messy roommate, or stressed-out spouse instead of other monks and nuns.
I have always been envious of the uncomplicated lives of those who live behind the walls of monasteries and convents. They sleep, eat, work, pray and then repeat. But it is prayer that orders their days and provides stability to their lives. Monastic lives are measured by an unending cycle of prayer and meditation on scripture every three hours that provides structure to the other activities of life. These fixed hours of prayer are held in common by everyone who lives under the roof and centers their community on the words and ways of God.
It’s not unlike the discipline of caring for an infant, waking through the night, pausing throughout the day to meet the needs of the baby. The baby’s schedule is the house’s schedule. Micha Boyett wrote the spiritual memoir Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer about the practice of fixed hour prayer and the demands motherhood that renewed my devotional life when the familiar foundations of my spiritual life were shaken after the birth of my first child. As a mother she began to practice fixed hour prayer and though she felt isolated at home with her small children and disconnected from her old patterns of work and life, she experienced a new connectedness to the Church at prayer and a vital stability that grounded her in God’s presence.
My ideal devotional life had always been based on the idea of one powerful, solitary hour, or “Quiet Time,” of prayer and Bible reading early in the morning that would empower me to make it faithfully through my busy day ahead. Too often I would miss that one perfect hour of prayer. I couldn’t get five minutes alone much less an hour. Or I wasn’t “feeling it” and try as I might I couldn’t produce the spiritually sustaining moment I needed. I felt like a failure and came to resent my family for it.
Fixed hour prayer is regular invitation to come enter into the prayers of the Church. It is a gentle invitation to come join the unending chorus of worship offered by Christians around the world, every hour of the day. There is no need to produce the right feelings or make up for a skipped day. It’s not meant to be a solitary experience and can be shared with others in your home or just the Church universal. Anglicans reformed the every three hour prayer cycle down to four times or offices: Morning, Midday, Evening, and Close of Day, also known as Compline. These prayers appear in a simplified form to be used by individuals or families at home in our Book of Common Prayer.
Jed is encouraging all of us to pray the Daily Office during these strange days when we are confined to our homes like monks. We are going to need prayer to make all this time spent together possible. We are going to need an anchor of prayer to handle the heavy news from outside our walls. We are going to need prayer to find stability from time spent in God’s presence.
Join us for prayer and a message from Jed this Sunday at 10 am on Facebook Live and continue this week in prayer throughout your day. The easiest way to join in praying the Anglican Daily Office is with the free Daily Prayer app that follows the ACNA Prayerbook. It’s available for iPhone and Android so you can always have it with you.