Friday, January 8, 2010

Daily Office 2

Praying the Daily Office involves using set prayers. I come from a Christian tradition that de-values the use of set or pre-written prayers. Authentic prayers, in this tradition, are spontaneous prayers. Well, this poses a bunch of problems. Let me list them:

1. The Book of Psalms is a book of set prayers. They are in sacred scripture and inspired by God to be used as prayer. Remember, Jesus prayed the Book of Psalms.
2. The idea that the spontaneous is more authentic is a decidedly modern notion rooted in 19th century romanticism and in western culture. The idea that the spontaneous is more authentic is not in scripture, was not part of western thought until roughly 200 years ago and would be puzzling to people from other cultures.
3. We sing pre-set worship songs all the time and never conclude they are inauthentic because someone else wrote them. Has anyone else out there been brought to tears while singing Amazing Grace for 313th time?
4. The idea that the spontaneous is more authentic presumes we all naturally know how to pray. But this isn't true. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he gave them a set prayer.
5. Lastly, the notion that the spontaneous is more authentic is, frankly, quite narcissistic. It presumes that I know better, in the heat of the moment, what to say to God than Jesus did, the Psalmist did and great prayer writers from Christian history did.

The truth is that most people who regularly pray the Daily Office find set prayers to be quite liberating. It frees them from what N.T. Wright calls the burden of spontaneity and enables them to have a regular practice of prayer.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)