One of the gifts and challenges of theological education is the work educators do to help students integrate historic Christian traditions and practices with contemporary realities. Ministers regularly face questions about how to make new and inviting for today’s believers the ideas, symbols, concepts, and rituals of Christians in earlier centuries. A flashpoint in congregations for these questions is often communal worship. Leaders and congregants ask how (or even if) historic Christian worship styles and models can be brought meaningfully and vibrantly forward into 21st century communities. Responses to this query have been varied, and discussions about appropriate worship styles have in many congregations and denominations become heated and contentious. In the last several decades, debates over the proper relationship between historic and contemporary forms of worship have resulted in a telling and oft-used phrase—“worship wars.”
Last week in my worship and liturgical theology class, we discussed a historic prayer form that has continued to spark the imaginations of faith communities and worshippers over the years and across the theological spectrum—daily prayer, historically called the liturgy of the hours or the divine office. Over the course of Christian history, varied forms of communal daily prayer have emerged. Perhaps most enduring is what some traditions call morning and evening prayer. Related to this is a more extensive pattern of daily prayer that is often associated with monastic communities and includes in some cases seven moments of prayer that correspond with different times of the day—sundown (vespers), night (compline), dawn (lauds), early morning (prime), mid-morning (terce), noon (sext), and afternoon (none).
Many denominations include in their hymnals or prayer books resources for daily prayer. Also, a number of intentional communities (the term “new monastics” or “new monasticism” is being used to refer to some of these communities) have emerged in recent years that include a version of daily prayer in their corporate practices. Other daily prayer resources are available online or as ebooks, many of them intentionally crafted with contemporary concerns and issues in mind. Examples include Celtic daily prayer from the Northumbria community; A New Zealand Prayer Book, created by New Zealanders in an intentional effort to “allow a multitude of voices to speak”; and The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle.
A shared aim of all of these resources is not unlike that of earlier believers who prayed the liturgy of the hours. The call of daily prayer was and is to invite believers individually and corporately to understand their entire lives as guided by rhythms of praise to the Creator. The call of daily prayer was and is to a communal awareness of the sacramentality of all life.
Last week a student-generated idea for Lenten prayer emerged here on the School of Divinity campus. The outcome? The School of Divinity is inviting the Wake Forest community to join with us and other worshippers across the globe in observing a contemporary version of morning prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week during Lent. Prayer will begin at 7:40am in Davis Chapel and last about 15 minutes. We will be praying prayers from a contemporary daily prayer resource called Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.
An important dimension of daily prayer is its corporate or communal character. A gift of contemporary versions of daily prayer is that internet availability makes it possible for people to pray the same texts together from wherever they are. Common Prayer is available online at http://commonprayer.net/ and includes daily, midday, and evening prayers for each day of the week.
|February 20||Last Day to Drop Classes (with permission)|
|March 25 – 28||Advising for Fall 2013|
|April 1||Registration for Fall 2013 begins|
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Blessings on the week ahead,
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs