The Daily Office
Morning & Evening Prayer
How to Pray the Daily Office
Morning & Evening Prayer are an important part of the Anglican spiritual tradition with a rich history that are beneficial to us even today both for our prayer and reading the majority of scripture. The ancient church carried on the Jewish tradition of praying at certain hours of the day. In particular, a schedule and set form of prayer developed in the monastic tradition that eventually came to include eight offices, often contained in a book called a breviary: Matins (very early morning), Lauds (sunrise), Prime (6am), Terce (9am), Sext (noon), None (3pm), Vespers (6pm), and Compline (before bed). Because this rigorous monastic form of prayer was not practical for an average person, and because the first Anglicans wanted to provide a structure of the Daily Office that was practical for every Christian, these hours were simplified into Morning & Evening Prayer (sometimes called Matins and Vespers) with Noonday Prayer and Compline being added later. It is not difficult to pray the Daily Office, but it does take some time learning. I highly encourage using a physical copy of The Book of Common Prayer, instructions for which I provide below, though the easiest thing to do is to use the Daily Office online.
Online Daily Office: There are many online versions of the Daily Office, but by far my favorite is St. Bede's Breviary which does all the work of finding that day's psalms and scriptures and prayers for you, and also has many options for customizing if you are adventurous. I have set the link above to a customization as we will use it for Evening Prayer during Lent 2021. When you go to St. Bede's Breviary you will see the following screen:
For Evening Prayer during Lent 2021 you will want to go to the section "Use your default settings...." and you can ignore everything else for now. The correct month, date, and year should be pre-selected, but if it isn't, choose the date of Evening Prayer. You will want to select "Evening Prayer," then press the "Pray the Office" button. This will take you to Evening Prayer exactly as we will pray during Lent 2021, beginning with the Confession, and including the correct psalms and readings. You'll notice that this website provides many options for customizing your prayer, as well as several traditional resources not in the The Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which I suggest exploring once you get comfortable. But instead of relying on a website long-term, I would use this merely as a learning tool along with your copy of the BCP and Bible. Once you understand how to use the BCP itself, you will have the benefit of the fullness of our prayer tradition.
Transitioning from Online to The Book of Common Prayer and Bible: It is my fervent recommendation that Anglicans pray with The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in hand. The online services are very convenient and provide a way to learn how to pray properly. But from the time of the Apostles we Christians have been a people of the book. And there is something significant about holding the physical object in one's hands, a book that is used for nothing other than the scripture and prayer. With the BCP and Bible in hand may we "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the words of God (BCP, 236).
Use The Book of Common Prayer: The best way to pray the daily office is to use your own copy of The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and Bible. If you do not have one, you can purchase a simple edition that we have in the pews through your local bookstore or Amazon. For purposes of my explanation, I will be using Evening Prayer, Rite I (traditional language) that we usually begin on page 63 with "O God, make speed to save us," but in Lent begin with the Confession on page 62. If you do not have a copy, you can download a PDF of Evening Prayer, Rite I. Generally, follow the prayers and rubrics throughout the office, though at a few places the rubrics will give you options. It gets tricky with the psalm and readings because they change each day. The BCP provides a chart of the two-year cycle beginning on page 936 or page 27 of the PDF. (Year One begins on the First Sunday of Advent preceding odd-number years, and Year Two begins on the First Sunday of Advent preceding even-numbered years). The BCP provides the Psalter that we use beginning on page 585. Finally, you can look up the passages from your Bible or online. An easier way than using the chart and your Bible is to purchase a Daily Office Book, which has all the readings included in the order they are read.