Worship and Devotion in Daily Life
Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
This article will introduce some Christian practices that are broadly applicable to multiple traditions. The daily practices of prayer, devotion, and study vary significantly between denominations and will be described in the articles on those traditions.
Christians, like Jews and Muslims, seek God in their daily lives through prayer and the study of scripture. Filled with promises of blessings to those who pray in a manner acceptable to God, the New Testament strongly encourages prayer, providing both instructions and examples. The Gospel of Matthew contains an example of prayer that Jesus gave to his followers, setting the pattern for how to pray and what to pray for:
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13).
Famously known as the "Lord's Prayer," this short text, containing many of the fundamental assumptions of Christianity, is the most influential prayer for Christians. They should approach God as a child approaches a parent, with simplicity and directness, in confidence and in love. The will of the Christian is subordinate to the will of God, and the immediate needs of the Christian are subordinate to a devout longing for God's reign.
The Lord's Prayer teaches the Christian to ask for physical and spiritual goods, but only after praying that God will bring about the supreme end that God seeks. Prayer must not be selfish. The Gospel of Luke tells how Jesus followed these spiritual principles until his death. When he prayed that he might be saved from his impending arrest and crucifixion, he concluded by saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
The first Christians were devout Jews who observed the Jewish practice of daily prayer at specific times. The Books of Acts tells us that the apostles prayed three times a day: at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m.). At these same hours, early Christians also said private devotions at home. When possible, Christians gathered in the morning and evening for public prayers. By the 10th or 11th century, a tradition of brief devotional prayers called "the Hours" had developed among the clergy and soon became popular with lay Christians. The churches of the Protestant Reformation simplified these prayer services, although some churches abolished them outright in favor of informal prayer. Liturgically-minded Lutherans and Anglicans retained both morning and evening prayer.