On File

To Belong

An introduction to The Daily Office

To rise and sing with a congregation is powerful.

There’s something deep and integral to such worship in community, where the words draw me closer to people than do the pews. There’s something about belonging to that act, about joining my voice with the vast many. I know in those times I am part of something bigger than myself, something that reminds me of that “great cloud of witnesses” or of the Levitical choirs or the elders in John’s vision.

In many of our Spiritual Life Development retreats, we will often practice reading Scripture as a group. Rather than in an organized and directed way, we instead encourage everyone to stand and read the same passage—at the same time. We believe that if we read at our own pace, read from our life, and read from our experiences, God will speak to us. He will also speak, through our voices, to people around us. The passage resonates through the room and through the lives of a diverse people.

Don’t let my secret out, but when we do this, I usually keep quiet. I know, it’s a terrible example when I’m asking for group participation, but I can’t help it. I stand in the room and listen to the voices of people as they encounter Scripture. It’s an incredible experience. I hear individual voices grow louder when the Scripture resonates with him or her. A voice will become softer when the words offer a specific challenge. It’s remarkable in every way and I can hear God speaking, not just through, but also to them.

There’s a rich history in the Bible regarding corporate worship. Aside from the regular rhythms of synagogue time, there are many profound moments where community worship takes place. A few that have recently come to mind—when the Israelites gathered at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19, when Ezra read Scripture to the remnant in Nehemiah 8, and many other such assemblies throughout the book of Acts.

There’s something about community. There’s something about the bigger picture. There’s something about belonging that lives at the heart of who God made us to be.

There’s a spiritual discipline—a personal devotional experience—that integrates some of the most profound community worship experiences, such as singing together or praying corporately or reading Scripture. It’s called “The Daily Office,” or “Fixed Hours of Prayer,” and is the practice of interrupting the day every three to four hours to observe a time of sacred prayer. During these times, participants hear or read the same Scriptures.

For example, although we may be scattered across a beach, or live across our territory, we nonetheless enter into the same prayers and the same Scripture readings. Our ears are attuned—separated and yet still together—to the same words and ideas, to the same opportunities to encounter God.

If we speak out, our voices rise together to the Lord, regardless of the distance between us. We offer up the same prayer, beginning at sunrise, or at 9 a.m., and with a cup of coffee.

We’ve provided you, the participant, with three short prayer times—morning, mid–day, and vespers. When and where you pray is up to you. Your consistency and rhythm will draw you into the experience. You may let the right time come to you. Through these divine appointments, you will likely experience spontaneous blessings you didn’t know you had coming. You may participate entirely on your own, or find ways to share in the prayers.

For this year’s Old Orchard Beach (OOB) prayer experience, Spiritual Life Development has created “Pray with Us,” as an invitation to experience the “Daily Office” or “Fixed Hours of Prayer.” You can also participate from home. We’ve provided materials in English and in Spanish in an audio format. Members and friends of our department will lead you through the prayer exercises. You can find them through the OOB app, or on www.saconnects.org. We’ve also provided a downloadable PDF in both languages.

If you’re joining us at OOB, there will be a limited number of printed copies available during the Saturday evening program at the Seaside Pavilion.

It’s our sincere desire that you will enter into this sacred and ancient practice with a sense of availability. It is also our prayer that God will meet you at the “office” in profound ways.

by Chris Stoker

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