Last year I was introduced to a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. If you are at all like me, you are thinking “What kind of weak sauce, get-in-touch-with-your-sensitive-side-garbage is this.” That is what I thought when I first heard the title of the book.
Boy, was I wrong. It was probably one of the better books I read last year, and it was sure timely – with all the added stress of COVID stuff going on. Peter is a pastor of a large church in Brooklyn, and he tells a lot of his story that led him to write this book. I would highly recommend picking up a copy and digesting it slowly. (Note: Any time I give a book recommendation, I am assuming you are going to read it chewing and spitting. No book is perfect, but read to be fed, awed, and challenge. Read widely and read wisely.)
There is one chapter in the book that I have gone back to several times, and that is the chapter on the Daily Office and Sabbath (chapter 6). Growing up in church I am familiar with the Sabbath (though my personal practice of it took great leaps in this last year), but the idea of Daily Office was new to me.
Scazzero spent some time with Trappist monks who first showed him how they stopped what they were doing seven times a day to be with God. “The term Daily Office (also called fixed-hour prayer, Divine Office, or liturgy of the hours) differs from what we label today as quiet time or devotions.” (p 143). The Daily Office does not replace “devotions”, but it allows for more opportunities during the day to commune with Christ. The Daily Office keeps devotions from being overwhelmed with the weight of the whole day, and keeps us from reading our Bible in the morning and going the rest of the day without a single thought about God or His Word that we just read.
I too quickly resonated with this quote: “Within a couple of hours after being with God in the morning, I easily forgot God was active in my everyday affairs. By lunch I was grumpy and short with people. By late afternoon God’s presence had disappeared from my consciousness. By the time dinner was over, he felt a long way off. After observing my behavior for a couple of hours, my wife and children were always wondering, ‘What happened to Dad’s Christianity?’ And by nine o’clock at night, I was asking myself the same question!” How frustrating, right? But how do you fix this?
Enter the Daily Office. What does it look like? Scazzero suggests that it at least looks like stopping your activity, sitting still, allowing their to be silence, and reading Scripture. He mentions the Psalms are often read, but it can be a NT or OT reading, and he always closes with the Lord’s Prayer. Some use music or reading from a devotional classic as well. It is a time to break away from the noise and constant activity to be with God in the midday hours.
I have been trying this out (just at midday) and failing a lot, but I need it more than I can say. All too often my day is full of meetings, studying Scripture to teach it, reading, or doing administrative tasks and I forget why I do it. “Be still and know that I am God.” Try it out with me. Add one more
In closing, here is a prayer from Every Moment Holy titled “A Liturgy of The Hours: Midday” –
O Christ our rest,
We pause amidst the labors of this day
to remember the best reason for our laboring.
We labor, O Lord, as stewards of
your creation, and as stewards of the gifts
you have apportioned to each of us
for the good of all.
Bless then the works of our hands
and mind and hearts, O God,
That they might bear fruit for your greater purposes.
May our work this day be rendered
first as service to you, that the benefits
of it might be eternal.
Receive this, the offering of our labors, O Lord.
If our hearts have already been tempted this day
to believe anything about ourselves or others
that does not take into account your creation,
your mercy, your sacrifice, your grace,
your forgiveness, your redemption,
and your unshakeable love, O God.
Remind us again of these truths,
giving us faith enough to believe
and hope enough to choose
to embrace them again and again.
Or if we have been swayed from the place of
resting in your grace today-swayed by shame,
by error, by vanity, by pride, or by love of the
praise of people, act, O Holy Spirit!
Reveal our error, convict conscience,
and bring us to quick repentance.
Rekindle our affections, restoring them again
to their one worthy object, who is Christ,
and who alone holds the words of eternal life.
Let us now consider such words.
Shape our thoughts O Lord, by your truth,
even as you shape our hearts by your love.
Now grant us strength and grace, O God,
sufficient to the remains of the day,
that we might move through its unfolding
in humble obedience to your will
and in sensitivity to your Spirit
and in joyful expectancy of your coming kingdom.
May the light of that eternal city
illuminate our hearts, our paths, our vision
through these next hours. O Lord.