Learning to Pray the Anglican Way with the Psalms in The Daily Office

This post was something that I was thinking of making at the start of this year but I sat on it until a recent Sunday sermon about relying on God in prayer by Pr Dinesh Natorajan and some conversations about prayer following the sermon nudged me to type this out. A couple of things from the sermon stood out in the conversations I had were about not praying enough and not praying in the right way.

The sermon and the conversations brought back some memories back when the pandemic hit in early 2020 and lockdowns were in place. Adjusting to the pandemic was hard, and it came to a point when doing things was hard, including praying. It was then I figured I had to do something or else I will find it difficult to get back to praying. One of the things I tried was doing the 1662 Daily Office in earnest. I soon found myself wearing out pretty fast as doing just one of them (either the 1662 Morning Prayer OR the Evening Prayer) was quite a spiritual workout by itself and I found it hard to do it alone on a daily basis, and I petered out very quickly when I was in a rocky patch in life.

In such cases, I found it helpful to start easy and then slowly build up with the Psalms as suggested here where a psalm and the Lord’s Prayer are prayed daily. It took me some weeks to get used to it but during that, but it eventually led me to build up to doing the 2019 Daily Office with some people on the internet. Early on, it was quite tempting to stick to a particular psalm which I resonated with, but I eventually realised that I had to step out and explore other psalms so that I would grow and experience the whole gamut of human emotions expressed in prayer to God in Psalms such as fear, guilt, outrage, sorrow, thanksgiving and joy. It also prays for a wide range of issues from God’s will to be done on earth, rulers and justice to personal needs.

What helped in exploring the Psalms is that in Anglicanism, all the 150 Psalms are traditionally read in the course of a month where a different set of psalms are read/prayed in the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, according to a schedule corresponding to the day of the month. This may or may not be rigorous to some people.

The 60 Day Psalter cycle (the psalm reading schedule) suggested in the Saint Aelfric Customary blog post is from the 2019 Book of Common Prayer which is easier, can download from here. Just scroll down to the appropriate month and date to get the corresponding 60 day psalm cycle. The I and II beside the month is to indicate the readings for a particular prayer where I is for Morning Prayer and II is for Evening Prayer.

If you are just starting out, it is best to start with one (either the monthly schedule in I or II) for a time. Once you’re comfortable with the pace, it can be expanded to the Psalms in both Morning and Evening Prayer of the 60 day cycle. The rigour can be increased to the traditional one month cycle which can be found in the same file.

This practice can also be done with another person or in a family setting where the Psalms are prayed responsively (either by alternating the verses or lines).

I pray that the Holy Spirit kindle in you the fire of God’s love and illumine you as you pray and meditate upon God’s Word.

Psalm 108 and 110

This is a short reflection of Psalms 108 and 110 which are appointed for the Morning Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer 2019’s 60-day Psalm cycle.

Psalm 108 opens with praises in the first four verses before changing into a prayer. What stands out is the psalmist promising God that he will give thanks and praise to him among the gentile nations before changing to a prayer for God to exalt himself and to deliver his people from the enemy. It ends with a plea for God’s help as help from mere mortals are useless and then firmly declaring that God will defeat their enemies and it is only by being with him that their victory is certain.

The idea of God defeating the enemies then flows into the next psalm, Psalm 110 starting with:
“The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,*
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

From the lens of a Jew at that time, it is God’s promise to David and his house where David’s rule is happening while enemies are surrounding him. Then, the Lord acts by smiting their enemies and judging them, and will victoriously lift up his head.

As Christians, where we know that Jesus Christ has lived, suffered and died on the cross before being resurrected and then ascended to the right hand of God (Mark 16:9), these two psalms remind us that God is with us and that Jesus reigns even when it does not seem so currently. They also remind us of God’s promises that Jesus will return, judging the earth and bringing peace.