Why I Pray The Daily Offices
My first fulltime job was with a large church in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. I spent almost eight years serving this congregation as their youth minister. When I left, we had multiple fulltime ministers on staff and many part-time admin staff. We had weekly minister meetings and staff devotionals. There was a wall with calendars so all of our many schedules could be posted, as well as a sign-out board used to let each other know where we were and what we were doing. While working at this large church, there was a built-in level of accountability from which flowed a natural daily schedule. Then I moved to my current ministry location in Stamford, Texas. A small West Texas community and congregation. I am the only fulltime staff member. I would like to be able to say that, with my move to a new location, my built-in schedule came with me. But it didn’t. Too many times, early in my ministry, I would look up from my computer to realize I had “lost” time on things like social media. Since there is no sign-out board, it became easy to come into the office “a few minutes” late. I came to realize this time was adding up. It was more than just wasted time; it was wasted ministry.
This ministry transition and loss of schedule, along with other hurdles, took a toll on my spiritual growth. After a few months I realized it had been weeks since I had spent any quality time in prayer. I had been praying in our worship services and at night with my children, but my daily time in prayer had somehow gone the way of my schedule. I was feeling the loss of both.
So I googled, “I need help with prayer.” Seriously. I was desperate.
One of the first results was a link to a prayer book. Growing up in the Churches of Christ, I had never used or seen a prayer book. When I downloaded it, it seemed to simply be groupings of Scripture. But like I said, I was desperate. It was a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayers. I decided to give it a try. To say that this simple book changed my life is an understatement. I discovered two things during that month: prayer books offer me words to God when I have none, and I need a schedule to survive spiritually.
What I have discovered is that praying the daily offices meets both of these spiritual needs. Some may need to ask, “What does it mean to pray the daily offices?” When I first started, I asked that very question. The daily offices are the marked times of the day for regular fixed prayer. For some, it is simply morning and evening. Others pray three times a day. There are many monastic groups that pray seven times a day. 
I started off simply praying morning and evening prayers. I finally had the beginnings of a schedule. Later, I began to add different “hours” into my routine.  I began to set alarms on my phone to remind me to pray the different offices. There was even a church bell ringtone I used to call me to prayer. I now had an even better schedule to follow—one that kept me in continual communication with God. At first, I felt that spending this much time in prayer might get in the way of my other ministry responsibilities. However, I quickly discovered that, not only did praying the offices not interfere with my ministry, it actually made me more efficient. Praying on a regular schedule kept me from wasting as much time on social media and other acts of procrastination. I knew I had to schedule things like visitation and study between my times of prayer. I now had a schedule and a renewed prayer life. Perhaps that is why daily prayer is often referred to as opus Dei, the work of God.
While I have used many prayer books over the years, let me suggest a few you might consider using if you are looking to create a new schedule in your life. The first prayer book I mentioned is Take Our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book. This book is a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayer. There is a second volume that focuses on the Holy Days of the Christian calendar. When I chose to pray the traditional seven offices of prayer, I used Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours and The Night Offices. This four-volume set follows the seasons of the Christian calendar. A third prayer book I have found helpful is Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. This single volume provides morning, afternoon, and evening prayers along with prayers for special occasions. Finally, the most recent prayer book I have used is Just Prayer: A Book of Hours for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers. This single volume is a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayers dedicated, as the name suggests, to peacemaking and social justice.
I wish I could say that prayer and keeping a schedule now come naturally. They do not. While I have become accustomed to praying the offices, I have found that, if I am not careful, I can simply turn off the alarm and return to a hectic, unscheduled life. But when I do, I inevitably find I again lose my words, and my prayer life—as well as my whole ministry life—struggles. I am thankful I have grown up in a tradition where we have been known as people of the Book. I am also thankful I have discovered other books from other traditions that draw me closer to God and order my life for God’s service.
 The offices as I have come to pray them are as follows: Matins, prayed at midnight; Lauds, prayed at about 3:00 a.m.; Terce, prayed about 9:00 a.m.; Sext, prayed at noon; None, prayed in the afternoon; Vespers, prayed about 6:00 p.m.; and Compline, prayed before bedtime.
Editor’s Note: Wes Horn will be participating in the Ministering in the Small Church track at ACU Summit, Sept. 17-20, 2017.