The ancient practice of praying the daily office was radically ahead of its time, anticipating the transient, mobile world we now inhabit.
The practice of communal prayer happened mostly through Sunday worship and often in a mid-week prayer meeting. The mid-week practice is largely rusting away, largely a victim of a variety of factors, certainly including our highly mobile lives. We’re less local, less quick to cross town to get to that location for a prayer meeting (and isn’t part of the reluctance to publicly pray with others our discomfort about doing something rather personal and intimate with others around, a performance anxiety of sorts). And so the good practice of praying in community suffers a setback.
But here’s the genius of praying the daily office, the “slightly ahead of its time” element. Praying the daily office is a way to “be together when you’re not together,” perfect for a virtual, highly mobile society (and it provides an accessible way to pray with others for all those who are really uncomfortable doing that in the same room). When you pray a daily office, you do so on your own. But then think of this: if others are praying the same prayers, in a beautiful way you are connected to a praying community that transcends space and time.
I recently spoke with a friend who told me that his wife was using Seeking God’s Face as a way of staying connected with God and her far-flung group of friends. Her circle of friends spans several North American time zones and so they decided to pray the book together as a way of “being together when we’re not together.”
This was one of the dreams I imagined as I wrote and compiled the book – people gathered in prayer, not necessarily in the same room but together over the same scriptures, united in saying the same prayers, together forming one community of prayer. I know of several churches who are making this a community-wide practice, groups of friends, clusters of missional leaders, or even denominational boards who are finding themselves together in prayer through the daily office. I’d love to link all these groups together to let them know they are connected in a wider community of prayer.
Who knew that this ancient practice of prayer could provide such a meaningful contemporary venue of unity and community so needed in a mobile, transient world. A community of faith in constant prayer – together in prayer, when we’re not together in person.
So let me invite you to join in this community of prayer for the season of Advent (which begins this Sunday). You can check out the Seeking God’s Face page on Facebook, where the publisher will be posting daily excerpts from the book – you can find the Facebook page here. Or better yet, pick up a copy for yourself. There’s a crazy good sale going on right now at Faith Alive – and free shipping to boot. (and if you think this is an author’s crass, brazen, consumeristic self-promotion, check out this blog post by another author on the realities of book publishing and author royalties).
One of the church communities using Seeking God’s Face as a communal spiritual practice is New Hope Church in Calgary, AB. Earlier this year, one of their pastors, Heather Cowie, talked about praying the daily office and, specifically, using Seeking God’s Face as a church-wide spiritual practice – you can watch it below.