DISCOVERY OF AN ANCIENT TREASURE
Most Christians today are struggling—especially when it comes to spending time with God. You may be one of them.
For more than twenty-seven years I have been a pastor in Queens, New York, of a large, urban church with people from over seventy-three nations. At the same time, I have traveled throughout the United States and Canada speaking to pastors and church leaders, observing the church in a variety of settings and denominations.
The following are my observations about the current spiritual condition of most of us in our churches today. We are …
• living off of other people’s spirituality.
• scattered, fragmented and uncentered.
• physically, spiritually and emotionally tired.
• existing with only a one-inch-deep spirituality.
• praying and communing with God very little.
• not very intentional in pursuing Jesus.
• feeling stuck in our spiritual journey with Christ.
• struggling to stop our “life on the run.”
The purpose of this book is to introduce you to a revolutionary spiritual discipline called the “Daily Office.” When crafted to fit our unique personalities, temperaments, life situations and vocations, it offers us an anchor powerful enough to slow us down amid the unceasing demands of our lives.
The Daily Office differs from what we label today as “quiet time” or “devotions.” Quiet time and devotions normally take place once a day, in the mornings, and emphasize “getting filled up for the day” or “interceding for the needs around me.” The Daily Office normally takes place at least twice a day, and is not so much a turning to God to get something; it is about being with God—about communion with him.
The goal of the Daily Office, as with a “quiet time,” is to pay attention to God throughout the entire day while I am active. This is the great challenge for all of us. Both the enormous pressure of the world, with the demonic powers behind it, and our own stubborn self-wills make it easy to live most of our waking hours without any consistent awareness of God’s presence.
The word office comes from the Latin word opus, or “work.” For the early church, the Daily Office was always the “work of God.” Nothing was to interfere with that priority.
King David, three thousand years ago, understood this. He practiced set times of prayer seven times a day (Psalm 119:164). Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Devout Jews in Jesus’ time prayed at fixed hours—morning, afternoon and evening. These set times of prayer were one of the Israelites’ great treasures, providing a way to keep their lives centered on the invitation to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples continued to pray at certain hours of the day (Acts 3:1; 10:2–23).
About A.D. 525, a good man named Benedict structured these prayer times around eight Daily Offices, including one for monks in the middle of the night. He wrote the Rule of St. Benedict for laymen, and its purpose was to set rules for domestic life so that one could live (as fully as possible) the type of life presented in the gospel. It was a means to the goodness of life. At one point in his Rule, Benedict wrote: “On hearing the signal for an hour of the divine office, the monk will immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with utmost speed. Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God [that is, the Daily Office].”
All of these people realized that stopping to be with God, by means of the Daily Office, was the key to creating a continual and easy familiarity with God’s presence for the rest of the day. I know it does that for me.
The great power in setting apart small units of time for morning, midday and evening prayer infuses the rest of my day’s activities with a deep sense of the sacred—of God. I remember that all time is his. The Daily Office, when practiced consistently, works to eliminate the division of the sacred and the secular in our lives.
One of the great barriers for many of us in spending time alone with God is the lack of a flexible, balanced structure to guide us. This rendition of the Daily Office seeks to provide a means to serve you in your time with God. Remember, God has built each of us differently. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.
Like any powerful tool or discipline, the Daily Office can easily become a new legalism. For this reason, I have provided only two Daily Offices per day (one to be done morning or midday and the other for midday or evening). You may, for example, do one in the morning and the other at midday, or you may do one at midday and the other in the evening before you go to bed.
You choose the length of time for your Offices. The key, remember, is the regular remembrance of God, not the length of time. Your pausing to be with God can last anywhere from two minutes to twenty minutes to forty-five minutes. My wife, Geri, and I choose to have longer times with God in the mornings and then shorter ones at midday and in the evenings. It is up to you.
Taken from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Day by Day by Peter Scazzero. Copyright © 2008, 2014 by Peter Scazzero. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com