In my August 31st, 2008 homily (click here), I issued a challenge to parishioners to engage in praying the Daily Office over the next month and reading through the Gospel of Mark. In my homily I stressed that prayer (although requiring both effort and discipline) is not principally about doing, but about being. Prayer is about being in relationship with the living God. All relationships require commitment, effort, and time. However, the most important thing about being in a relationship, be it with a friend, lover, child or parent, is simply being together.
As Christian people, prayer is our way of being in relationship with God. In prayer we make the time, we commit ourselves to being together with God, and we enter into a conversation with God. How do we do this?
In my homily I suggested the following. First, make a regular time everyday to spend in prayer. If you are a morning person, this could be early in the day, before anyone else in your house awakes. Perhaps ending the day with prayer before you fall asleep will be more suited to your personality and lifestyle. Some people I know take a bit of time in the middle of the day, over their lunch hour, in a quiet place to engage in prayer. It is important to make the time and pray daily. The time of day does not matter.
Secondly, all relationships involve mutual conversation and shared experience. As Christian people, Holy Scripture is our shared story and the beginning and ending of all our conversations with God. Thus, a daily reading of Scripture should be at the core of our daily prayer. To this end, I have invited the people of my own parish to join me over the next month and read through the Gospel of Mark as part of our daily time of prayer. The Gospel of Mark (which will be the Gospel that read through next year during our Sunday liturgies) has 16 chapters, so this means roughly half a chapter a day -- a mere couple of paragraphs! (If you do not have copy of the Bible you may find the Gospel of Mark online by clicking here).
How are we to pray? There are many ways to pray but I suggest (as I have in the past in this blog-- click here) that we take up a particularly Anglican form of prayer, the Daily Office. The Daily Office is that ancient cycle of morning and evening prayer and reading that has nourished the life of the Church for centuries. It consists of sentences of Scripture, versicles and responses, canticles, pslams, readings from Scripture, an affirmation of faith, intercessory prayers, collects and other prayers. The Daily Office can be either a short or lengthy service, depending on whether or not we include all the variables that are offered -- it is up to the one praying! The wonderful thing about the service is that the words are words of "common prayer," that is, words that are found in a common text and shared by other Christians who are also "praying the office" either individually or in communities around the world. Some people will wish to pray both the morning and evening office, while others will be satisfied with one or the other. The late night office of Compline (Night Prayer) is also a beautiful service that ends the day.
Where can these services be found? If you own a Book of Common Prayer or Book of Alternative Services, Morning & Evening Prayer can be found toward the beginning of these books. If you don't own either, they can be obtained very inexpensively through The Anglican Book Centre. I have also included, on the sidebar of this page, several resources (books and online resources) which might be of assistance.
Thus, I encourage you, in the days ahead, to pray the Daily Office each day, and as part of that prayer, where a passage of Scripture is appointed, read half a chapter of the Gospel of Mark. In my homily I made two further points. First, if you miss a day, don't worry. No one is keeping track. Just pick up where you left off -- no need to double-up. Just keep going. Secondly, I pledge to read and pray with you and be a companion on the journey of prayer. As you pray daily and read through Mark I shall be doing the same. If questions arise, or if you have any comments (either with respect to The Gospel of Mark or praying the Daily Offfice), please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address above. I will be offering reflections on Mark's Gospel in the days ahead and would be pleased to address any of the questions or comments that might emerge out of your reading and prayer.
Finally, I would like to reiterate that prayer is not so much about doing but about being. Prayer is about being with God in a relationship, and Scripture is the anchor of our conversation. The Daily Office is one way in which we can intentionally nurture and deepen that relationship. I invite you to join me on the journey.
Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, without the express, written permission of the author.