Episcopalians often get slammed for not being big on prayer. Perhaps this is because for many, prayer is strictly defined as something extemporaneous with the words “Lord, Father God, we just want to…” as a neccessary intro to some request from the deity. Under this definition, it is true, most Episcopalians might wince and tend to distance themselves from this image of prayer (although in true Anglican style, we will still share a meal with those who find this language attractive).
One of the great resources of our tradition is the Daily Office, which comes from the monastic tradition and aids in developing the “discipline” of prayer. The Office is a format in which local prayer can be joined to a global prayer; the format of the prayers are held in common throughout the communion, but local concerns are lifted up as the need arises. For example, today as I prayed the office, I could be assured that many, many others were reading the same words as I, albeit in their own time zone and at their own pace and language, but we all shared the common language of the Office. As I prayed for the needs and concerns of La Capilla, and my own family, others added their own personal intercessions. We all read the same readings about the building of the Second Temple, and about the scroll with seven seals, and about why Jesus speaks in parables. However we all interpret these texts based on our local experience (as well as our understanding of tradition and reason). While most of the faithful do well to pray once daily, monastic communities like the Benedictine Order of the Holy Crosspray a fuller office (Matins, Eucharist, Diurnum, Vespers, Compline) on a daily basis.
I personally struggle with the discipline of prayer probably as much as anyone. Regularity is my challenge, but when I attend to the Office, I find that the rest of my life comes into focus. Creating the habit of prayer is difficult at first, but in my limited experience, it is well worth the initial effort. In the past, one had to wrestle with various books (Book of Common Prayer, Breviary, Daily Office book, Bible), but with internet access, we can now access all the information online. Nothing will ever supplant the communal praying of the Office, but when personal prayer is the only option, this can be a handy resource for feeding your soul and remembering the larger body that exists beyond.
Blessings this Halloween/All Hallow’s Eve, and remember don’t be scared of prayer!