The Daily Office is the backbone of the Episcopal Christian life.
While not a sacrament, per se, the daily rhythm of confession, invocation, scripture, and prayer is inseparable from the weekly rhythm of Eucharistic worship. We begin in our closet praying morning and evening.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the other reformers who first put together the Book of Common Prayer in England in 1542 or so had a vision of the whole church as a monastic laity, living out a unique vocation as the Body of Christ. The clergy of the Church of England still promise to keep the office, meaning “obligation” daily, either in church or at home.
The Daily Office is a simple prayer service that is found in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer begins with Morning Prayer starts on page 79 with a sentence from scripture, continues with confession, the invocation, Psalm(s) of the day, readings, Apostolic Creed, Lord’s Prayer, collects/prayers, and final blessing. There is a short noonday service after, then Evening Prayer
The prayer book has two basic forms of the Daily Office, one in traditional language (Rite I) and one in contemporary language (Rite II). The traditional language one offers the two classical parts that have been in every Book of Common Prayer stretching back to 1549—a service of Morning Prayer (p. 37) and a service of Evening Prayer (p. 61). The contemporary language one is a bit more expansive. It has Morning Prayer (p. 75), a short Noonday Prayer (p. 103), Evening Prayer (p. 115), and Compline—a short prayer office for the close of the day (p. 127). There’s also another bit, Order of Worship in the Evening (p. 108) but it’s intended primarily to be done in church whereas the others are suitable for doing with family or by yourself. The contemporary one (Rite II) is the one we rely on at Grace.
Speaking of families—there’s also a section of really short self-contained versions of the Daily Office that are especially suitable for families called the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families (p. 136). These are one-page prayer sets for use at Morning (p. 137), Noon (p. 138), Early Evening (p. 139), and Close of Day (p. 140) and are short enough to hold even a toddler’s attention. I speak here from experience—this is what we use with our two girls.
Now—the major offices are the ones for Morning (p. 37 or 75) and Evening (p. 61 or 115). There are three other parts of the prayer book that you’ll need to make these work: the Psalms (p. 585), the Collects (p. 159 for Rite I; p. 211 for Rite II), and the Daily Office Lectionary (p. 934) which gives you three readings—one from the Old Testament, one from the New, and one from a gospel—that you can divide up as you choose.
Truth be told, it can be daunting at first to delve into the services with all the options and canticles. But, there are some great resources on the web that give you the Daily Office intact with no book juggling or page flipping required. The top two that use the current American Book of Common Prayer that I’m aware of are:
I have relied on the Mission St. Clare site since the late 1990’s. It is direct and easy to follow. And they include a bio of the people and events we commemorate throughout the church year.
The main thing is to take it easy, begin simple, and enjoy it. The offices quickly become like the thread that Ariadne gave Theseus to find his way out of the labirynth of the Minotaur. You may drop it and have to find it again, but it will help guide you through life by pulling you back to God. Day in, day out.