The Daily Office is meant to be prayed together in community. There have been few greater spiritual moments in my life than sitting in the pews with the monks at the abbey listening to the daily office prayed and sung seven times in a 24 hour period. It feels stable and connected both with God and each other. There is deep soul work done in the repetition of the words and the heart cry of prayers passed on for hundreds of years to the faithful few who dare to keep it.
But we don’t have the luxury of constant community, so I often pray it on my own. Over the years I have changed from exactly the written prayers to several others I’ve found along the way. I love Celtic prayers and the prayers of the saints. I rarely keep all the offices on any given day, but very few go by when I don’t keep the watch of Vigils at 3:15 a.m. It’s been years since I’ve set my alarm for this office, but still around 3 I tend to wake up. I no longer need a light to pray the prayers so often I soak up the darkness and stillness and find God to be very present to this life. It's holy ground for me.
Sometimes it’s a 30 second prayer because I’m a firm believer the most spiritual thing we can do for ourselves at times is sleep. But, more often than not, 3 a.m. finds me praying true soul prayers. It’s my best writing and journal time. And it’s the time of day I most feel loved by the Father. I live as we all do in the tension of the now and the not yet of the spiritual life, and that is what 3 a.m. tends to be for me. It’s not really night and it’s not really morning. And God is present without distraction.
People always ask me how to pray the offices. The short answer? Do it. I don’t believe in people telling me what to do so I wouldn’t suggest everyone pray vigils. Last week I prayed morning prayer at 2 p.m. still in my pajamas. Hey, it’s morning somewhere! I have friends who faithfully pray an office at lunch and others when they wake. Some like to end their day by praying Vespers or Compline. It doesn’t matter. Find what works for you and do it consistently. There is great wisdom in the ancient spiritual fathers and those in monasteries today who create a discipline of prayer. And if we’re faithful, we’ll soon find when it’s not a part of our days, we miss it. And that’s how we nurture our spiritual lives.