I have written in the past about the liturgy of the hours, the “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” and other relatively complex and arcane forms of prayer, primarily drawn from or connected with the Roman Catholic tradition.
I would like to offer for any Christian who might benefit from it a rather simple, cheap (no $100+ breviaries or prayer books required!), scripturally-based rule of prayer that I have personally found helpful.
I frequently carry around with me a little vest-pocket size New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (English Standard Version), published by Crossway and available for under $10. It is excellently made, with a handsome chestnut cover and durable Smyth-sewn binding, and it has put up with (so far) at least a couple years’ worth of near-daily abuse, being carried around in jeans pockets and bags, etc.
I have used a pencil to mark up the psalter, dividing it into 30 days’ worth of Morning and Evening Prayers from the Anglican Prayer Book tradition. This goes through all 150 psalms in order, once a month (with the 31st day generally repeating Day 30, as applicable).
Following a pattern common to many prayer traditions in the Western churches, and providing a basic minimum structure while also allowing for a flexible expansion of additional modular elements when time permits longer prayer or reading, I have used the following outline:
- Opening: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” or “May my help and my psalmody come from God who is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one eternal and true God. Amen. Grace and peace to us from God the Father Almighty, and from his only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
- Psalmody: Read or sing the psalms for the Morning or Evening of the calendar day, as marked up. Close each psalm with a traditional doxology: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
- Reading (optional): Read some part or parts of the New Testament, as time permits and/or as the Spirit leads (anywhere from a few verses to perhaps even a few chapters, depending on the circumstances).
- Silent prayer (optional): It’s good to let the Word of God sink in, to speak freely with our heavenly Father, and/or simply sit in silence and wait for the “still, small voice.”
- Gospel Canticle: In many Western churches (both Catholic and Protestant), it is customary to recite or sing a Gospel Canticle drawn from Luke 1 — the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) or Benedictus in the morning, and the Canticle of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) or Magnificat in the evening.
- The Apostles’ Creed. This ancient creed or statement of faith of the Western church is a great summary of the historical orthodox catholic Christian faith throughout the ages.
- The Lord’s Prayer. What better way to pray than the way our Lord Jesus taught us? All that we should ever want or need is summed up neatly in the “Our Father.” And its commonly-used doxology (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”) has been a part of Christian worship since at least the first or second century.
- A Prayer for the Morning: “I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
A Prayer for the Evening: “I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
- Closing: Sing (or recite) the Doxology of “Old 100th”: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, / Praise him, all creatures here below, / Praise him above, ye heav’nly host, / Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
This rule is simple, affordable (both time- and money-wise), flexible, well-suited for and easily adapted to virtually any state in life, yet also robust and nourishing enough to sustain a Christian’s daily walk. At least I have found it so. Please feel free to use or adapt as you see fit!