Worship and Devotion in Daily Life
Written by: Russell P. Dawn
The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) contains set formats for daily corporate morning prayer and evening prayer. These are considered regular services of the Church and are somewhat formal, containing set prayers and assigned readings from scripture. Still, they need not be led by clergy. Morning and evening prayer are the main elements of what is called the "daily office," which simply means a set of daily services. Other corporate services in the daily office are the noonday service and compline (nighttime), and there are scripture readings set for every day of the year, following a two-year cycle. Although the daily office services do not include sacramental rites such as the Eucharist, it is not uncommon for Anglican churches to offer a small midweek Eucharistic service, often held over the lunch hour.
Similar to many branches of Christianity, Anglicanism also encourages the practice of individual daily prayer and Bible reading, sometimes referred to as "daily devotions." The purpose of daily devotions is to help sustain and improve a person's relationship with God. Anglicanism teaches that God relates to Christians personally, both individually and corporately, and the practice of daily devotions furthers that relationship.
The BCP has a form for daily devotions for individuals and families, but Anglicans are by no means limited to the BCP's form. Some may choose extempore prayer, others may read scripture according to the daily office, their own pattern, or no pattern at all, and many combine both prayer and the reading of scripture. There are also numerous privately published devotional books intended to guide an individual's scripture reading and/or inspire the individual in his or her life as lived apart from formal weekly worship. Thus, daily devotions are meant to impact not only the time spent on devotion, but the believer's entire day, and therefore entire life.
There are devotional books from just about every school of thought on practical piety. Some Anglicans prefer books that focus on meditation, others on the exposition of scripture, still others on encouragement and inspiring stories. The practice of daily devotions is as varied as the needs of the individuals to whom God relates.
Anglicanism also encourages informal corporate devotion among believers. Many Anglicans gather in small groups in one another's homes for periodic (perhaps bi-weekly or monthly) study, prayer, and fellowship. Like daily devotions, the goals and structures of informal corporate gatherings vary. Some place prayer and mutual spiritual and emotional support at the center, others the study of scripture, and there are many other possibilities. However, like the daily office, informal daily devotions and corporate gatherings are generally not intended to include sacramental rites.