Daily Morning and Evening Prayer can be very intimidating at first, especially without a background in liturgical prayer. This basic tutorial aims to demystify the structure of the Office so beginners can start praying with the Book of Common Prayer.
You can get an easy-to-print PDF version of this tutorial by clicking here.
When? Where? Who?
The Daily Office may be said at any time in any place. There’s no requirement that it be said in a church at a specific hour. But setting regular times and places for yourself can be very helpful for keeping the discipline.
The Daily Offices are meant to be said with others as a corporate service. But it’s sadly quite difficult to find an Episcopal parish that offers the Office as a regular (let alone daily) service these days. This guide will teach you to pray on your own. Maybe with time you’ll gather a group to pray with you!
Getting it ‘Rite’
The Book of Common Prayer provides two forms for Morning and Evening Prayer: Rite I and Rite II. Rite I uses more archaic English forms like ‘thee’ and ‘thou’. Rite II uses English as we speak it today, though still in a more ‘elevated’ style than casual speech. The wording is different, but the structure is the same for both rites.
|Rite I||Morning Prayer (page 37)|
Evening Prayer (page 61)
|Rite II||Morning Prayer (page 75)|
Evening Prayer (page 115)
1. Opening Sentences
The Office opens with a sentence from Scripture. In Morning Prayer these are organized according to the liturgical seasons, including special ones for feasts, fasts, and saints’ days. The opening sentences for Evening Prayer aren’t organized by season, however, and can be used at any time.
While confession may be left out, it is worth noting that the longer introductory paragraph lays out a justification for the entire Office. Confession lets us “prepare ourselves in heart and mind” for worship, and is a very worthwhile practice. Note that if you’re a lay person, the pronoun in the absolution is different.
Having “prepared ourselves,” this section “invites” us to worship. Here rings the first of several “Gloria Patri”s, which is simply the Latin for the opening words “Glory to the Father…” You’ll find that old Latin titles are retained in most of the BCP, since the Anglican tradition is part of the Western, Latin tradition.
After the Alleluia comes the Invitatory Psalm. In Morning Prayer you can choose either the Venite or the Jubilate (the Pascha Nostrum is used during Easter), and you can add a seasonal antiphon before and after the psalm if you choose. In Evening Prayer, this section is simplified to the ancient Greek hymn Phos Hilaron (‘O Gracious Light’), said without antiphons.
Here you pray the Psalms for the day according to the schedule you are using, praying the Gloria Patri after each Psalm. There are two Psalm schedules to choose from. The ‘lighter’ one appoints Psalms with the readings in the Daily Office Lectionary (page 934). The ‘heavier’ one appoints Psalms in a 30-day cycle, found in the Psalter itself (page 585).
5. Lessons (Readings)
After the Psalms you read 1 or 2 selections from Scripture. These are also found in the Daily Office Lectionary starting (page 934). The Readings are introduced as they are on a normal Sunday. There are a few options for concluding a reading listed in each Office (page 84 for Rite II Morning Prayer). Some don’t require any response from others.
Each reading is followed by a Canticle. These are mostly songs taken from Scripture, though a few are ancient songs of praise. The Canticles are numbered in a confusing way. Despite appearances from the numbering, Rite II has all the same Canticles as Rite I, just in a different order and translated into contemporary language. Rite II also offers a number of Canticles that Rite I doesn’t have.
To pick a Canticle, you can follow the schedule on pages 144-145. Or you can follow a more traditional pattern that focuses mostly on the hymns from Luke:
Te Deum (Canticle 7/21) or Benedicite (Canticle 1/12)
Benedictus (Canticle 4/16)
Magnificat (Canticle 3/15)
Nunc Dimittis (Canticle 5/17)
6. Apostles’ Creed
Pretty simple! Just say it!
7. Salutation & Our Father
Before the Our Father there’s a salutation and response. If you’re on your own, you can say both parts or skip right to the prayer.
These are snippets from the Psalms arranged in a call-and-response format. The Officiant says the V parts, and the People says the R parts. Or you can say both if you’re alone. Use either set.
Here the Officiant prays one or more Collects (a fancy word for prayer). This can include the Collect from the previous Sunday. There are specific Collects for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Traditionally there are fixed daily collects: “Collect for the Grace” (page 100) & “Collect for Peace,” (page 99) for Morning Prayer and “Collect for Peace” and “Collect for Aid against Perils” (both page 123) for Evening Prayer. But you can use any of the ones there!
Unless there’s a Eucharist or a special set of prayers, you then proceed to use one of the three “Prayers for Mission.”
After the Prayer for Mission you can sing a hymn and/or pray for anything that needs praying for. You can use prayers from the prayerbook (pages 810-841) or pray from your heart.
10. Optional Conclusions
Before the close of the service you can pray the General Thanksgiving or the Prayer of St. Chrysostom or both. The Prayer of St. Chrysostom is especially fitting when you’re praying the Office with a group.
The Office is finished with a final call to bless the Lord and a blessing from Scripture is read.
Morning Prayer (Rite I) — 37
Evening Prayer (Rite I) — 61
Collects (Rite I) — 159
Morning Prayer (Rite II) — 75
Evening Prayer (Rite II) — 115
Noonday Prayer (Rite II) — 103
Compline (Rite II) — 127
Collects (Rite II) — 211
Daily Office Rubrics (Rules) — 141
Psalms — 585
Prayers & Thanksgivings — 814
Daily Office Lectionary — 934