Last year for Lent, I didn’t give something up, but took something on instead: praying the Daily Office. That is, I set out to pray in the morning and evening every day, using a pattern of psalms, scripture readings, and prayers laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. Following this pattern would take me through the whole Book of Psalms every seven weeks, and almost the entire Bible over the course of two years.
It was this trip through the Bible that got me interested in the Daily Office. As a lover of poetry, I count the psalms as one of my favorite parts of the Bible. Learning the psalms better, and finding more stories to read, appealed to me; not to mention that the Daily Office gives you stories that the Sunday lectionary skips over, such as today’s text--the ever-popular story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
Reading the story today, I realized I didn’t remember the reason Daniel was thrown to the lions in the first place. As far as I could recall, it had something to do with the king liking Daniel more than a bunch of shifty-looking onions. (OK, that may be colored by watching this VeggieTales episode a few too many times as a kid.)
But the official reason for his execution, the reason his enemies use to take him down, is Daniel’s prayers. When the government forbids people to pray to anyone but the king, Daniel refuses to give up his prayer to the God of Israel. He continues his prayers, three times daily, in front of an open window and in plain view of his enemies.
Maybe this was a straight-up act of defiance, or maybe his prayers were that woven-in to the fabric of his day that it never occurs to him to stop.
I wish I could say my Lenten prayer practice went quite as deep. I did my best to pray each morning and evening, but, in truth, I counted it a win if I prayed the Office a few times a week. Some days, I just went through the motions; I'd read the psalms in a monotone voice, while thinking ahead to my plans for the rest of the day.
Other days, though, I found comfort in the psalms and readings that I wasn’t expecting to find. Perhaps the best part was the simple act of setting aside time to pray. Last Lent was a turbulent time in my life, full of grad school interviews and drastic life decisions. Just the act of opening the prayer book served as a reminder to squeak out a prayer for clarity and peace.
So I suppose I came for the songs and stories, but I stayed for the prayers. I'm still not as dedicated as Daniel, not by a long shot. I have a few workarounds, though. Like a true Millennial, I found it easier to incorporate prayer into my day when I could do it electronically. My homepage is now set to the Daily Office blog, and even if I only see it for a second before I click away to Gmail or Facebook, it reminds me: God is a part of all of my life, from the rising to the setting sun.
Lord of all life, watch over our days and our nights—and when we do not know what to ask or where to go, teach us to pray.
Image Caption: By Aaron Wolpert