CofE Canon law …

For myself and people like me who operate under the canons of the Church of England, among which are laid upon us obligations regarding daily prayer and forms of service, here is my exploration of what is said and how these prayers fit within the framework.  There are a number of canons that relate to this topic and they are not all in the same place.

Church of England and canons

There are two strands of canons which are pertinent here. One is about what forms of service are authorised, the other is what a priest is meant to do in terms of daily office.
In short CofE priests are supposed to say Morning and Evening prayer each day (Canon C46) and those services are defined by canons in terms of what they are and should or may contain.
So the issue for the forms of service on this site and in the Book of Our Common Prayer is whether they can be considered as Morning and /or Evening Prayer. This, then, leads us to what constitutes or could constitute those services in canonical terms.
This covers the issue of public worship: for the ordained MP and EP are obliged upon them. At this point then, the form of prayer becomes notable and the Service of the Word may apply.
The authorisation under B1 (which constitutes the forms of service which may be used) extends, by the powers of B2, to the Service of the Word (in Common Worship). Meaning that a Service of the Word as defined in Common Worship may be a form of Morning or Evening Prayer.
The MP & EP forms published on the CofE website are considered thus:
“The orders for Prayer During the Day, Morning and Evening Prayer and Night Prayer comply with the provisions of A Service of the Word, which is authorized pursuant to Canon B 2 of the Canons “
The main thing for our purposes, then, is that the BoCP may “comply with the provisions of A Service of the Word” in such a way as to be considered Morning or Evening Prayer. To do this they must comply with the ‘shape’ of the SotW and with any particulars within that shape.
A Service of the Word (details can be found here):
“…consists almost entirely of notes and directions and allows for considerable local variation and choice within a common structure…”
Overall the aim is to have a liturgy with a preparatory phase, liturgy of the Word, prayers and conclusion. Here are the directions:

Preparation

  The minister welcomes the people with the Greeting.
  Authorized Prayers of Penitence may be used here or in the Prayers.
  The Venite, Kyries, Gloria, a hymn, song, or a set of responses may be used.
  The Collect is said either here or in the Prayers.
In BoCP mostly a set of responses constitutes this phase. A collect is sometimes commended (and could be used additionally in any case). See below for some further comment on prayers of penitence but note here that in the Lord’s prayer, the petitions to do with forgiveness are late in the prayer which is the pattern for BoCP ordering.

The Liturgy of the Word

  The people and the priest:
  ¶ proclaim and respond to the word of God
In BoCP, there are usually prayers or responses to lead into the readings and some to encourage reflection (ie ‘response’). Because of a sense of continuity, canticles are also encouraged as part of a response. A number of the forms also have scriptural phrases which make explicit a response of faithful following.

Prayers

  The people and the priest:
  ¶ pray for the Church and the world
The BoCP patterns this section after the Lord’s Prayer and most of the petitionary sections explicitly or implicitly fulfil the gloss.

The Dismissal

  The people and the priest:
  ¶ depart with God’s blessing.
With regard to BoCP a little more needs to be said. Departing with God’s blessing is a vague phrase, but I note that the final section of the Lord’s prayer as played out in these prayers involves us in committing our ways to God and asking God’s help as we go further into the day, this can be construed as going with God’s blessing.
There is a further consideration also. In the Notes section we find the following further instruction:
“Only authorized Prayers of Penitence should be used. They may be omitted except at the Principal Service on Sundays and Principal Holy Days”
So, there is an issue about authorised forms of penitence since most of the BoCP forms do not contain authorized Prayers of Penitence. Even though the penultimate section of the Lord’s prayer deals with forgiving and being forgiven the words used are not drawn from the collection of authorised prayers of penitence.
One thing we might note is that the prayers of penitence may be omitted (except on Sundays’ principal service etc). With regard to BoCP, we might say that prayers of penitence in the CofE sense are being omitted but note that included in the Prayers section are some ‘reflections’ or more general prayers on forgiving and being forgiven -following the pattern of the Lord’s prayer.
It is worth noting, in this connection that often intercessions in a main service, such as Holy Communion, contain phrases to do with forgiveness that are not ‘Prayers of Penitence’. So there is a case for simply not regarding the forgiveness prayers in BoCP as official Prayers of Penitence in this context. That is, not construing these forgiveness prayers in BoCP as Prayers of Penitence so much as part of praying for the church and the world. In some of the BoCP orders of service, in fact, this is made plausible by having responses which are strongly linked to the rest of the prayers. As a further reference point in authorised provision of texts, we might also consider as a precedent the litany which has prayers asking for mercy and forgiveness.  These petitions for God’s mercy etc are not Prayers of Penitence under canonical provision but rather penitential parts of more general prayers. So we may regard the forgiveness prayers in BoCP orders of service.
Recall further that none of the CofE Prayers of Penitence include an explicit section corresponding to the Lord’s prayer’s line on forgiving others, so that the BoCP forgiveness prayers are not covering the same ground as the Prayers of Penitence in official provision since these latter do not generally make explicit an exercise in forgiving others.
Also note: “a Creed or authorized Affirmation of Faith may be omitted except at the principal service on Sundays and Principal Holy Days”. Note that this refers to a principal service so this means that in many circumstances a creed need not be added to BoCP orders of service. But if a BoCP service was being used as a principal service on such a day, it would be easy enough to add one at an appropriate point (probably at the end of the liturgy of the word section and before the prayers section or possibly at or towards the end of the prayers or dismissal section.

Some Canonical quotes for reference

The overarching thing for ordained and licensed lay ministers is Canon B1.
Section 2 of which says:
Every minister shall use only the forms of service authorized by this Canon, except so far as he may exercise the discretion permitted by Canon B 5. It is the minister’s responsibility to have a good understanding of the forms of service used and he shall endeavour to ensure that the worship offered glorifies God and edifies the people.
In addition we may note the discretion to vary orders of service given in Canon B5.1
 The minister who is to conduct the service may in his discretion make and use variations which are not of substantial importance in any form of service authorized by Canon B 1 according to particular circumstances.
In B5. 3 .his we find a principle that

All variations in forms of service and all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.

With regard to daily prayer,
Canon B11:
2. On all other days the minister of the parish, together with other ministers licensed to serve in the parish, shall make such provision for Morning and Evening Prayer to be said or sung either in the parish church or, after consultation with the parochial church council, elsewhere as may best serve to sustain the corporate spiritual life of the parish and the pattern of life enjoined upon ministers by Canon C 26. Public notice shall be given in the parish, by tolling the bell or other appropriate means, of the time and place where the prayers are to be said or sung.
3. The reading of Morning and Evening Prayer in any parish church as required by this Canon may only be dispensed with in accordance with the provisions of Canon B 14A.

We may note, of course, that this applies to public services in licensed buildings and has no direction for ‘private prayers’.

C 26 Of the manner of life of clerks in Holy Orders

1. Every clerk in Holy Orders is under obligation, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause, to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly; and to celebrate the Holy Communion, or be present thereat, on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. He is also to be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in examination of his conscience, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures and such other studies as pertain to his ministerial duties.

Collects

These collects are composed or refashioned by Jeremy Clines from older collects and  can be found at his Late Quartet site. There are a number of other collects there, this is a short collection of ones I think might be most helpful for occasional use.
Collects are designed to ‘collect’ together people’s thoughts and prayers at one particular point in time. They have a normal structure of addressing God by recognising some divine quality and on the basis of that quality they then ask God for something, ending with some further recognition of God’s qualities.
………………………………………………………………….

O Creator, from who all good things come,
grant to us your humble servants,
that we may see you in all your works.
Inspire us to think on your goodness,
and be guided to become holy stewards
in the creation, which holds together
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

Holy God,
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge
of your world, your cosmos and your truth.
Draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love.
Help us truly serve and worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………
All-loving God,
in your service we receive perfect freedom.
Show us your purposes for our lives
here on earth that we may obey you
with all our heart and mind and strength,
through Jesus Christ our redeemer.
Amen.

 

…………………………………………………………………

God of mercy,
in giving us yourself in Jesus the Christ,
as the bread of life,
we live in the hope of life without hunger.
As we serve you and the world you created,
may we who eat, be bread to others,
may we who drink, pour out your love.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

Eternal God,
in Jesus, the Christ,
you served, among the crowds,
and you were with the wild animals,
and angels served you.
Equip us to be givers and receives of that same
love and hospitality; in the church, and with
the peoples and creatures of our world.
Help us notice your presence in others
and in our own lives.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

God, whose Spirit hovers over
the deep chaos, bringing order;
by your self-giving grace
we can find your love
and desire to see your promises fulfilled
for ourselves, humanity and whole earth.
Help us share your vision for your world
both now and in the new creation.
Through Jesus Christ our rescuer and redeemer.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

Go with us, God, into our lives
and our world, guiding our feet,
thoughts, hopes and our actions.
May your continual help equip
us to serve your divine purpose
for our world and our lives,
both now and for ever,
through Jesus Christ our rescuer.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

God who angels and animals worship;
you equip us with new hope,
and empower us with your Spirit.
Help us work with you to
protect and restore the broken
and forgotten people and places of our world,
through Jesus Christ our redeemer.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

All-powerful God,
you showed us
in rising from death
the promise of eternity.
Encourage us to view
our lives and world within
your all-loving and eternal nature.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

God our creator, in Christ
we see your love for our world
is stronger than death or despair.
Gift us with faith to trust your rescue.
Gift us with hope for creation’s liberation.
Gift us with love for our journey towards you.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

God, you love the world.
Your rule of peace was revealed
in Jesus, before he suffered and
died by the rule of law.
Help us see how much stronger
your love is than death.
Strengthen us so we may
serve you in this world,
even when love may mean that we suffer.
Amen.

…………………………………………………………………

Creator God,
in Christ you make all things new.
With creation, we long for freedom.
Come and renew our lives and our world,
with your grace and love.
Help us notice such gifts of hope,
so we may point out the signs of
eternal recovery, close at hand.
Amen.

For more of these collects which have a strong affinity with the Christian concerns for the environment, please go to this site.

Presentation of Christ aka Candlemas

We bring ourselves here and present ourselves to God:
the Lord whom we seek comes to his temple.
The true light that lightens all has come into the world,
In your light may we see light,

leading us from delusion to truth, and into your righteous way.
Lead us, Source of all Being, Father and Mother to us:
From darkness to light and into your gracious will.
Lead us, Christ, our Friend and our Brother;
From death to eternal life and into your infinite joy;
Lead us, Divine Spirit, empowering Life within
for we seek your enabling touch.

Based on a prayer from the Church of South India

As we hear the scriptures read, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to discern the will of God -what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Rom 12:2

Psalm[s] and reading[s]. At the end of the reading[s]:

As we reflect
Holy Spirit, rest upon us.

There may be a time of quiet and/or shared reflection. A framework for reflection, using the pattern of the Lord’s prayer may be used. 

Nourished in what is revealed by the Holy Spirit
May we grow and became strong in faith,
filled with wisdom;
And with the favour of God upon us

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

    English translation of the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2:29-32, copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation. Used within terms of licence

Glory to God in the highest:
and on earth -peace and goodwill.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
…expressions of of praise and thanks …
Our God in heaven, father and mother to us, Light of the nations, Fulfilment of the desires of the ages.
Hallowed be your name

In a world needing revelation to lighten our darkness,
faithful God,
glorify your name.
Among those who await consolation and redemption,
faithful God,
glorify your name.
In the search for meaning and fullness of life,
faithful God,
glorify your name.
Among those who bring good to workers, widows, and among those who show mercy to migrants.
faithful God,
glorify your name.
…other petitions may be made, each ending with
faithful God,
glorify your name.

The company of those who seek your face, O God, shall receive a blessing from you. [Cf Ps.24]
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
Into what will sustain our life in you, lead us.
Pause to recognise our needs
As you provide for us, sustain us and equip us to serve you,
faithful God,
glorify your name.

When the shadows we have cast have hidden the light for others,
Father forgive.
We offer the light of forgiveness for the shadows others have cast on our lives.
Father forgive.
You are the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
Your word is a lantern to our feet
and a light upon our paths.

Though we walk in the midst of trouble, O God;
you will preserve us.
You will stretch forth your hand against the fury of our enemies;
your right hand will save us.
Make good your purpose for us;
your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever
forsake not the work of your hands.
Make good your purpose for us.
[Ps.138:6-8]
Master, now you dismiss your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation.

Thy Kingdom Come

‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is a global prayer movement inviting Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus.  It started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England and has grown global from that beginning. During the 11 days of Thy Kingdom Come (30 May to 8 June in 2019). This is an adapted version of the Lord’s Prayer offices to support ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. As with the other Offices in this collection, this one starts with prayers to support reflection on scripture, followed by a pattern of prayers taking the Lord’s Prayer structure, using words suitable for blending in the main intentions of Thy Kingdom Come. There is a shorter version which may be suitable for middle-of-the-day use.

Bold-type words are to be said together in group situations. Italics mostly indicate ideas for activity at that point and generally are not said aloud. Three dots … suggest a possible pause.

Together with all in Christ, we wait
Come Holy Spirit; soak into our deepest being …
We pray together with all your people
Come Holy Spirit; breeze through our staleness…
We will hear the scriptures together
Come Holy Spirit; fire up our imaginations for good…
pause to gather thoughts …
Oversee and underwrite our hearing of the scriptures.
Change our hearts, correct our course and draw us into your counsel.
Ready us for service and steady us in wisdom,
let our dullness be Spirited away. Amen.

Psalm[s] and reading[s] are announced and read. When they have been read …
Reader: God has sent forth the word
May it not return empty.
There may be a time of quiet and/or shared reflection. A framework for reflection, using the pattern of the Lord’s prayer may be used. When it is time to resume the service…
Together we say:
We will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes upon us;
the same mighty strength
that raised Christ from the dead;
the same mighty strength
that seated him at God’s right hand
in the heavenly realms;
the same mighty strength
that lifted Christ far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
exalted beyond every name that is called upon
in this present age and in the one to come.
And we will be Jesus’ witnesses
to the ends of the earth

[Acts 1.8 and Ephesians 1:20ff]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
You have blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ
to the praise of your glorious grace,
which you have freely given us in the Beloved
        …Prayers and/or songs of praise and thanks may be shared aloud here…
And now we give you thanks because in Christ you embed us in your mission, and you equip us by the Holy Spirit, in love you adopted us through Jesus Christ: Our God In heaven
Hallowed be your name!

God, send your Spirit: mend your creation, fulfil your promises and inspire your people for good.
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Bring us alongside those whom you are drawing into Life; give us hearts to listen and minds to discern so that we may have well-chosen  good news to share.
… prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

As the Good News is shared, let it soften hearts and change minds.
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Draw those who have newly heard Christ’s call, to heed their vocation and to be nurtured and baptised
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

May your values and desires spring up and prosper throughout the world, your peace, wholeness and goodness come on earth
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Work righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
        … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Through the church, may your manifold wisdom O God be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

We ask that all the Lord’s people have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God
       … prayers or biddings relating to this may be added here the leader ending with:
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Let love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other
Your Spirit is working:
Your Kingdom come.

Be the wind in the sails of our lives and as we are blown forward by your Spirit may we know your comfort and provision
        …prayers or biddings asking for God’s provision may be added here the leader ending with
Equip us to work with you,
enthuse us to hold our course true.
Send forth your Spirit:
And renew the face of our lives.

We recognise that we quenched your Spirit and resisted sharing your good news
… No more: rather forgiveness be done; your Kingdom come.
We find again that we withhold forgiveness from others.
… No more. rather forgiveness be done: your Kingdom come.

Breathe upon us the breath of life:
And renew the face of our lives.
Make our hearts clean, O God
And re-form a right spirit within us.
Let us attend; Christ breathes upon us the peace and forgiveness of God.
A moment for quiet reflection on our forgiveness.

Intending to walk in the Spirit, we go out into God’s world, where God invites us into the ongoing work of creation and redemption, let us pray not to miss our path.
       Pause for reflection

Who is it that we seek?
We seek God: Sender, Sent and Sending.
Let’s seek God in neighbour and in foe
Amen. God open our hearts.
Let’s seek God in the routines and the happenstance
Amen. God be our vision.
Let’s seek God in our trials and tribulations
Amen. God be our wisdom.
Since we live by the Spirit,
let us keep in step with the Spirit.
[Gal 5:25 ]

Return to Navigation. See also the forms for Ascension and Pentecost. The short form of this office (may be good for the middle of a busy day) is here.

Whys and wherefores

Patterned praying and the wider church

The prayers on this website are intended for daily or ‘most-days’ use. In very broad terms they fit within a long tradition of prayers written and set to assist Christians to pray regularly. The guiding principles in putting these offices (that’s a word often used to describe these regular forms of prayer) together have been two-fold. The chief principle has been to make use of the prayer that Jesus gave to his first disciples in response to the request ‘Teach us to pray’. We now usually call that prayer “The Lord’s Prayer” though it has also been known as “the Gospel prayer” or often named for it’s first phrase, the “Our Father”. There are slightly different versions of it in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. Putting these together to compare them, we find that there are five topics or movements of prayer covered. Given that there is some variation it is reasonable to suppose that the point is not the exact words but the kinds of things we are being asked to make part of our regular praying.

The second principle informing the shape of these offices has been to include the reading of scripture. For many Christians reading or hearing the Bible regularly is an important discipline, and so it seems important to give room for that in a structure for regular prayer such as this. It seems best to have this component at the start of a time of prayer, perhaps this is because it is the way so many offices and prayer-time advice recommend. In many traditional offices the liturgy around the readings doesn’t particularly support the scriptural component -at least not explicitly in the prayers. In these offices, the prayers before and after the readings are intended to prepare us for hearing the scriptures and give us forms to respond, if only briefly, to them. There is also a framework for reflection offered. This might be particularly useful if you wanted to to use the scripture-centred part of the office separately from the prayer-based second part. One scenario for doing it like that might be to have two times of prayer during the day using one part in each prayer time.

A further principle has been to enable people to pray these offices together as well as singly. The offices are designed with a small group praying them in mind. It doesn’t have to be that way; a person on their own could pray the office -in fact for me that is the usual way it happens. It does act as a reminder though that prayer is envisaged to be a communal activity at heart. After all, the Lord’s Prayer itself supposes a community of prayer: “Our Father … give us … as we forgive…” etc. All of this means that many of the prayers are composed for two or more voices in dialogue. The default is that one voice would say one part of those prayers and the rest of the voices (whether one or more) would say the other part. Obviously, the voice for the first part could vary, and the ‘lead’ in that sense could rotate between participants. If you pray this physically alone, simply take both parts yourself. It works out fine, just remember if you do occasionally pray with others, to be aware that you may fall into habits of speech that need adjusting when sharing the prayers with others and you may want to check whether your prayer partner is expecting you to join in with the responses or not.

Some background

Many of the existing orders of regular pre-written prayers were developed for and by people in monastic communities. Some have been developed so as to simplify or make them more serviceable for those who live outside of monastic communities -this would include Anglican Morning and Evening Prayer.  There have been, however, different approaches and we’ll come to that a bit further on. Suffice to say for now that many of the most widely available collections of offices are rooted in or simply direct copies of monastic offices.

One of the recurring characteristics of monastic offices is that they are built round saying (or, often, singing or chanting) the Psalms. The Psalms would be set, normally on a rotational basis, and during a normal full day of maybe seven offices, the whole of the book of Psalms would be recited. The nuns or monks would be expected to be praying in the rest of their time in the form of individual devotions and as they worked. They would come together up to seven times a day to recite the Psalms together and this was conceived as joining the prayer of God’s people -which arguably the Psalms are. These gatherings for reciting the Psalms would be accompanied by other prayers and scripture reading.

This is not the only pattern of praying together, historically speaking, that Christians have had. In the church of the first few Christian centuries, lay people would gather for prayer (sometimes called ‘Cathedral Offices’) where praying together rather than Psalm-recital was the central activity. It is more in the spirit of that tradition that these offices are composed. It should be said here, though, that using the Lord’s prayer as a structuring principle for a daily office has not been as common as might be expected. Probably the lack of uptake for that is that other patterns have preoccupied minds and imaginations. However, I would argue that we should consider giving pride of place to the Lord’s Prayer in our regular praying, and if it is right that it was intended to be a basis for regular prayer on the part of the disciples then we should be considering using it as a basis for a daily office. This book is an attempt to do that with a variety of forms that it is hoped will enable the Lord’s Prayer to be explored more fully and to bring fresh insight as the different forms are used.

As you use these offices you would probably become aware that many sentences and phrases in them are actually quotes or paraphrases of passages from the Christian scriptures. Part of the point of this is to help us to pray scripture to some degree. It is something that I have valued about Anglican liturgies over the years that many of the prayers quote or make use of biblical texts in this we are taking a leaf from Jesus’ book for he is depicted in the Gospels as using scripture in reflection and directly in prayer. That said, another aim in composing and compiling the prayers in these offices is to come up with fresh phrases or imagery with the hope that theses may stimulate and enliven our prayers.

The value of regular praying using set prayers.

Many Christians and others would use the word ‘liturgy’ to mean a sequence of set, pre-written, prayers. I tend to use the word with a broader meaning: for me, liturgy is the way we pattern our time with God. Thinking about it in that way puts a wider variety of ways of praying within the orbit of ‘liturgy’: For example, a Quiet Time where there is a normal pattern of asking for God’s help in reading and understanding Scripture leading into reading it, reflecting on it, perhaps learning some of it and then praying out of it, that is a liturgy. Even though there is a high degree of extemporisation in the details, the fact that it is a regular pattern (probably with very similar details of the prayers said or thought) means it is a liturgy. Many so-called ‘non-liturgical’ services of worship are actually often liturgical in the wider sense because they have a fairly predictable pattern to them from the point of view of those who regularly worship. What this means is that we need to think about the value as well as the downsides of using a pattern of set prayers on a regular basis. This is not about liturgy or no-liturgy, but rather content and Christian growth and formation.

Praying with set prayers can be helpful to us. Quite often we can find a phrase in scripture or elsewhere which captures something we would find hard to put into words. Sometimes it can do this in a style or elegance of language we find enticing in prayer and which encourages us to bring ourselves to God with it. Sometimes set prayers can awaken us to ideas of what to praise, thank or ask God for that we probably wouldn’t have done ourselves but which we are glad of as the Spirit enlivens them to us. And thene there are the times when our inner life feels dried up or weary and being able to make use of the words that are ‘there’ is helpful; it’s like being able to pray with someone else where they are able to hold us in what we cannot do. It can also be that set prayers enable us to stay focussed at times when our minds might be inclined to wonder.

One objection to set prayers -and therefore to offices of prayer- is that they are not spontaneous. The thought behind this is that only the spontaneous is authentic or genuine and therefore ‘honest’ before God. Sometimes pre-written prayers can be dismissed as ‘vain repetition’ -a phrase from Jesus’ teaching on prayer and how not to do it. I’d like to address those concerns. First of all with regard to the concern about vain repetition. It comes from the King James’ version of Matthew 6:7. Other versions have words like ‘heap up words’; ’empty phrases’; ‘babble on’ and we should note, crucially, that the next bit is to say that this meaningless repetition is like what the heathens /Gentiles /those who don’t know God do and they do it because they are trying to make God listen. Jesus’ point is that we can be confident God hears us so we don’t need to try to impress God. In relation to offices of prayer this translates to the attitude we have when we pray them: if the set prayers enable us to relate to God, fine; if we use them as a kind of bribe to impress God into listening to us, forget it. We use the forms and the words to help us to focus on God and to carry our desire to connect and to share our concerns and to be touched by God. It needn’t replace using our own words, far from it. Using set prayers can support and nurture our own prayers. In fact, in these offices, there is space written in for our own more ‘of the moment’ prayers to be brought in.

In relation to the matter of only spontaneous prayers being authentic and acceptable before God, there are a few things to think more about. One is that Jesus used set prayers or phrases as well as spontaneous ones. For example “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is a quote from Psalm 22:1 -itself a prayer. And noting the use of Psalms -these are hymns and prayers which have been used for centuries by God’s people with never a sense of it being wrong to use them as prayers (whether said, sung or inwardly articulated) -this is why they are in the Bible: to be used for praying. This reminds us that using the words of others can be ‘authentic’ or can stir up within us a real connection with God. It should be noticed, too, that singing hymns and songs to God is praying and it relies on pre-written words so that many can sing together. It is hard to see how, in principle, singing prayers using someone else’s words is different to saying prayers that have been written previously.

days and seasons

This site has offices for different days and different seasons of the year. It’s not compulsory, obviously, to use them but many people do find it helpful to change forms every so often and this is one way to do this. Many people also find it good to pray along with the seasons of the church year and so there are forms to help you to do that which use imagery and phrases resonant with some of the themes of that season. You’ll see that each day has a theme which references a different part of the church’s year and there are similarities between these and the seasonal prayers themselves to a greater or lesser extent. There is also an order for ‘Everyday’ which is intended to be used anytime as an alternative to any of the others.

In addition to what you would expect in terms of seasons of the church year (Advent, Lent, Easter etc), there are some additional orders of prayer for times and seasons and themes which don’t often appear -Transfiguration is one and what I have called ‘Magnificat’ times when we might be reminded of Mary the mother of Jesus -as the name suggests the words of Mary in Luke 1:46ff form a central place in that office. You can also find a ‘Pauline Office’ which uses words from Paul’s letters to help us to pray. Creationtide is a new, developing, season in September up to 4 October. There is an office for “Dark Seasons” which was compiled with winter in higher latitudes in mind when darkness is a bigger part of everyday experience and it uses imagery of dark and light to draw on that experience as we pray.

There are also some ‘bedtime’ offices. Having a short office before bed is something that has grown in popularity in recent years and so these draw on some of the traditional prayers and imagery for Compline (the traditional late night office) but restructure them in Lord’s Prayer format. One of the constants in these offices is the use of the Nunc Dimittis -the Song of Simeon from Luke 2. In these orders of prayer it is used to round off a time of thankful reflection on the day past rather than as a response to the scripture reading. These night prayer offices are not written ‘seasonally’ but simply with some variety to be used as you find helpful.

Praying offices more than once a day?

If you are looking to pray an office more than once a day and would like to use these liturgies but would also prefer not to pray the same one twice a day. Then (assuming that you don’t count the night prayers) I suggest that it could work to use a seasonal one and a day one. So in December you might pray the Advent office in the mornings but the days’ offices on the relevant day. Or in times outside of the seasons (so called ‘ordinary time’) you might consider the days’ prayers in the mornings and use the Everyday form or the Pauline order on your second sitting.

Kingdomtide

Kingdom season is in the few weeks before Advent, presently this means during November. The theme of the Kingdom season is Christ’s light being brought to the darkness of the world and life into death. It is a time to remember and take encouragement from the dead in Christ, the saints in light.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
The true light enlightens everyone,
and has come into the world.
Lights /candles may be lit

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
and in your word have I put my hope.
Psalms and reading[s] 
The word that goes out from God’s mouth shall not return empty,
it shall accomplish God’s purpose,
and succeed in what it is sent to do.
Reflection individually or together. A framework for reflection> using the pattern of the Lord’s prayer is available to help if desired.

Canticle of the day may be used or a hymn.
Great and wonderful are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, O ruler of the nations.
Who shall not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
For you alone are holy.
All nations shall come and worship in your presence:
for your just dealings have been revealed.
To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might,
for ever and ever. Amen.

 [Revelation 15.3,4 ]

O Lord, open our lips
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Blessèd are you, Heaven’s High King and judge of all,
we give you praise and honour for with you is the well of life,
In your light we see light.
Praise and thanksgiving, silent or aloud.
God in heaven; father and mother to us,
Hallowed be your name

Your will is for the Light of Christ to illumine everyone.
May your light shine on all for whom we pray and chase the shadows from the situations we are concerned about.
We bring our concerns for people or events to God, silently or aloud.
In that day, mourning and crying and pain will be no more and God will wipe away every tear.
Your kingdom Come.

In that day, of the increase of Christ’s government and of peace there shall be no end.
Your kingdom Come.

In that day, your Spirit will fill all things and all shall know you.
Your kingdom Come.

In that day, death will be no more;
Your kingdom Come.

As we seek to walk in Light, you promise to supply our need
sharing of needs, silently or aloud …
Seeking first your righteousness
All things shall be added.

Jesus proclaimed ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand, change your outlook and commit yourselves to the Good News’
We pause to recognise what of our life needs to change in the light of God’s Reign
When the shadows we have cast have hidden the light for others,
Father forgive.
We reflect on what we may need to forgive
We forgive the shadows others have cast on our lives.
Father forgive.
This we call to mind and therefore we have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end:
They are new every morning,
Great is your faithfulness, O Lord:
great is your faithfulness.
[Lamentations 3:19 ff]

We reflect on the coming day: it’s potential challenges to our living out the Good News and recognising it may bring things for which we are unprepared.
In all that today may bring; the anticipated and the surprising,
The pleasant and the testing;
Go before us, alert us to the real issues,
strengthen us for Good,
awaken us if we sleepwalk into sin,
show us the way out of the Darkness
and fill us with love, hope and peace
as we cling fast to you.
Amen.

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