The Daily Office: An Ancient Prayer Hack for Your Modern Life
Have you ever considered living in a monastery? You know, praying memorized prayers throughout the day (even in the middle of the night), singing through the whole book of Psalms once per week (bowing and kneeling throughout), reading the entire Bible once a month, and dedicating yourself to prayerful labor when you’re with your fellow monastics?
What sane person would commit themselves to a daily rhythm that required hours of attention on the same thing? Repeating the same bodily movements of devotion again and again? Constantly distracting yourself from normal tasks of life (and sleep!) by the same daily commitments?
It’s not realistic. Right?
Before you answer, check your screen time on your iPhone. Look at the bar graph showing what hours you use it. Then imagined yourself hunched over on a chair, staring into its bright screen, your attention fixated, your hunger for entertainment satiated.
Let’s be honest. We’re all monks, these days. We just serve the Abbey of Immaculate Phone Reception.
And just as the daily rhythm of prayer shapes monks and nuns into persons of deep spiritual attention, our phones shape us into persons of shallow inattention.
I don’t say this to condemn you. I say it to condemn myself… and to suggest that the quiet angst I feel when my phone is in a different room, the screens are off, and I’m alone with myself—it’s not a fear of boredom, it’s a fear of seeing what my digital monastery has created.
Even more than that, it’s a hunger for a richer, deeper, truer life spent in the presence of Christ by which I not only encounter the inexhaustible wells of his love, but I drink of them so deeply that somehow that love becomes me.
I am him. He is me. Union. Just as evening and morning meet in the sunrise—becoming splendid, radiant beauty—just so I want my soul to meet with Christ’s and unite and become what could not be otherwise.
Do you want that beauty? Do you want your life to change? Do you want to encounter Jesus profoundly?
What if the answer could be found in the very monasteries we’re tempted to laugh at?
I believe it is.
The answer is not profound or original. It’s as old as the church (and older, even). It’s a practice of daily, rhythmic prayers and scripture readings called the Daily Office.
These prayers are not extemporaneous (praying whatever comes to your mind). Instead, they’re pre-written and sometimes memorized, all of them rooted in the Psalms and scriptures and creeds designed by followers of God to cultivate our souls toward the good, beautiful and true.
Yes, some may complain that such prayers are repetitive. They can easily become rote and boring. This is true. But what if on the other side of rote and boring—after years of repetition and practice—is life and beauty?
I think about it like caring for sick soil. It may take years of turning the soil over, adding organic matter to fertilize it and water to soften it. But over time, those repeated rhythms transform the soil. They turn it from dirt into a seedbed of latent, life-giving potential.
This is why Christians have called the Daily Office a “means of grace.” The Daily Office does not secure the love of God—Jesus did that once for all on the cross—but instead, it is a means by which God tills our soul and cultivates life. A daily office is a means by which we receive his grace (not earn his love).
How would your life change if you embraced a daily office? A rhythm of prayer and scripture rooted in ancient traditions that you didn’t invent, but have proven over generations to bring life out of death?
Well, I think it’s the only way we can resist our self-made digital monasteries. It’s one of the only ways we can reclaim the good gifts God’s given us in his word and through prayer.
So why don’t you try it?
To help you on this journey, we’ve gathered musicians and spiritual guides from our own community to create a twice-daily office, recorded and released as a podcast twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This podcast is called Rhythm: A Twice Daily Prayer Podcast.
How would your life change if you found a quiet place, twice a day, to listen for seven minutes and pray along with us?
I will warn you: it isn’t magic. You may feel nothing at first. In fact, expect to feel nothing. But you’re not doing this for a spiritual tingle. You may not hear God speak to you at first. That’s okay, he may not for years. But he may in moments.
Through this podcast, you’ll be invited to confess your sins. Receive his forgiveness. Hear from his words and then be joyfully sent back out into your daily life.
The Daily Office won’t change you overnight, but this practice of reading a psalm, practicing silence, confessing sins, receiving forgiveness, and reading scripture has the power to slowly change your life over time. Just as it has for millions of disciples (inside and outside monasteries) before us.