Updated: Jan 13
Early in my marriage to Fr. Jacob, we had a conversation in which I assured him that I wanted to know what he thought was important for us to do as a couple. He quickly asserted two things: that he wanted us to go to the gym together (gross), and he wanted us to do Morning & Evening Prayer together.
Talk about the mother of all backfires!
While I'm still not as consistent with the gym as he is, I have worked out far more in the last 7 years than I ever would have on my own. And as for the daily prayer routine, I have to be honest and admit that my participation in it did not solidify until this past year. And for all of you who know how much Fr. Jacob talks about prayer, that is an impressive feat.
I grew up Southern Baptist. I was raised in a tradition that is in some ways similar to the Episcopal tradition and in many ways very different. Morning & Evening Prayer (aka the Daily Offices, Liturgy of the Hours, The Divine Office of Praise, opus dei, etc.) are definitely the latter. I spent years reading through devotionals, reading through Psalms and Proverbs, or just spending time listening to worship music and journaling. There were times when those activities were very formative and there were times when they weren't. Rich and dry seasons are something that all Christians share regardless of denomination.
My objections to the Daily Offices were mostly that it felt rote and that I didn't want to be obligated to give 20 minutes of my time every morning and evening. In short, I didn't want to be told what to do or what to say. I wanted the "freedom" to pray when I wanted, and how I wanted. Only problem was, I wasn't praying very much or very often. Boiled down, without any excuses or rationalizations, my objection was quite simply that I didn't want to submit to something that wasn't my will.
That all changed last year when a family crisis put me squarely on my knees. In the midst of utter chaos, I had nothing consistent to depend on BUT a regimen of daily prayer. It was the one thing that was the same every day and it anchored me in the midst of an overwhelming storm. Day in and day out, Fr. Jacob and I (and then a group in our church) came together at 9am and 5pm to pray.
In the Offices we pray scripture and the prayers of the church that have been prayed collectively for centuries. It is objective praise to God, who is worthy of all praise. It is taking time each morning and each evening to recalibrate my mind and my affections towards the only One who is worthy of those affections. It is not dependent on my emotions because regardless of how I feel, it is appropriate to speak our praise to Him. It is finding true freedom to move in this life because I have submitted to a regimen of prayer. Morning & Evening Prayer is submission- obedience and participation that is not about me but about Him.
In the year of doing the Offices, I have been transformed. I have encountered God in the scriptures, the Psalms, and in the collects over and over again. I have seen Him working in my heart and thus, in my actions. I have felt the comfort and reproof of the Spirit, which gives me assurance that He sees me and is with me. I have woken up in the middle of the night reciting prayers in my mind, and I have re-read a passage in the Psalms for the 18th time and it strike me like a lightning bolt when it had not done so before. I have also spent many times in the Daily Offices where nothing remarkable happened. Nothing remarkable except the dying of myself to my will and the gaining of life in Christ by submitting to His will.
And in it all, my soul has begun to tolerate more and more of the paradox of faith. To submit is to be free. To live is Christ and to die is gain. What a profound mystery.
In these tumultuous and uncertain days, I yearn for Comfort and I yearn for Truth. I yearn for an anchor beyond what I can know and understand.
Then I hear Fr. Jacob's voice in my head (perhaps like an annoying parrot, but I didn't say that)- "Threefold Regula." Participation in the Eucharist, Morning & Evening Prayer, and Personal Devotions because it is the steady heartbeat of a life submitted and alive in Christ. All this time, my husband was on to something... who knew?!