For several months now, the staff members of Forefront have been engaging in a daily rhythm of prayer and scripture reading commonly referred to as "The Daily Office." This daily practice differs from usual devotional life practices, because we don't come to it seeking to learn the context of the Bible, but simply to learn to listen and surrender to trust in God. The root of the Daily Office is not so much a turning to God to get something but to be with Someone.
Peter Scazzero explains in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, that Office comes from the Latin word opus, or "work." For the early Church, the Daily Office was always the "work of God," and nothing was to interfere with that priority. By intentionally arranging the rhythms of your life around the prayers of the Daily Office, you will hopefully find yourself more aware of God's presence while you work and better able to maintain healthy balance in your daily life.
In October, we shared this practice with the leaders in our Manhattan and Brooklyn communities and invited them to join us in practicing the Daily Office through a book titled: Seeking God's Face. Every member of our community is invited to join us in this practice by picking up your own copy of the book or ebook here.
Below are a few simple guidelines to help you get started in using SGF (Seeking God's Face) and developing your own daily rhythms.
- SGF offers a time to stop, slow down, center and pause to be with Jesus. Make it your goal to eventually find a routine time (just before bed, on your lunch break, etc.) to come to prayer, but get started slowly by simply committing to turn to SGF at some point everyday.
- To begin, try to find a comfortable, quiet place where you won't get distracted. We know this can be hard to find sometimes in NYC. The beauty of SGF is that, if you must, you can practice it on the subway and still find calm on the busiest of days.
- The book is structured so you can use it for multiple years while following the seasons and celebrations of the Christian calendar, with a brief introduction to each new season - Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Ordinary Time.
- The beautiful thing about this practice is that you can choose to spend as much time as you like in prayer and contemplation each day. Some days, you may relish in the silence and solitude of this time. Other days, you may only have the energy to take as little as 15 minutes. The point is to take the time (however long or short) to build the rhythm of listening to God's voice into your daily life.
Here's an example of a page from Seeking God's Face and how you can pray through it on your own...
(This is a call to enter into God's presence and become mindful of the greater reality of the Bible.)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)
(This is the first of two specific places where SGF encourages you to quiet your heart and mind and enjoy stillness before God. For us to hear God's voice in our lives, we must learn to regularly practice silence.)
(Each day there is a psalm to pray. SGF is structured so that you'll go through all 150 psalms in one year. Allow the psalm to speak for you or to expand your worship for God. Somedays you may find yourself reading a psalm of praise when you feel despair or a song of lament when you are feeling great joy. Try to allow the psalm to move you past your present reality and into God's reality. Consider that you are praying with us as a church community. Maybe there is a friend or member of your small group who is going through what this psalm is expressing. Pray for them or take stock of the experience for a day when you will go through it. When the time comes, you may find that you will know how to speak to God with a full range of emotions as learned through the psalms.)
A song of ascents.
1 When the Lord restored(A) the fortunes of[a] Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.[b]
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,(B)
our tongues with songs of joy.(C)
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things(D) for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things(E) for us,
and we are filled with joy.(F)
4 Restore our fortunes,[c](G) Lord,
like streams in the Negev.(H)
5 Those who sow with tears(I)
will reap(J) with songs of joy.(K)
6 Those who go out weeping,(L)
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
(Everyday there is a further reading of the Bible. This is not a time to analyze the text or try to pull out information, but to listen to God's voice addressing your life.)
ISAIAH 40: 27-31
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?(A)
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?(B)
The Lord is the everlasting(C) God,
the Creator(D) of the ends of the earth.(E)
He will not grow tired or weary,(F)
and his understanding no one can fathom.(G)
29 He gives strength(H) to the weary(I)
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men(J) stumble and fall;(K)
31 but those who hope(L) in the Lord
will renew their strength.(M)
They will soar on wings like eagles;(N)
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.(O)
(Take another moment of silence here to allow God to speak to you through His Word. This may begin as a pause, but with time, push yourself to reflect in silence for longer periods and learn to enjoy solitude with your Lord.)
Read again slowly...find a word or phrase that catches your eye or moves your heart...slowly repeat it...pray your thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from your meditation...enjoy the presence of your Lord and Savior.
(This is where you are encouraged to engage in the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, which is simply a way to read the Bible, slowly, contemplatively and leisurely, not seeking information, but to hear the personal Word of God. To learn more about Lectio Divina, check out this blog post. You can also simply start by asking God, "What are you saying to me in this text? and listen for what stands out to you.)
(Allow your time of Lectio Divina to naturally flow into free prayer. Pray through the thoughts God is offering to you. Speak to Him about your needs, your worries, your desires. Lift up in prayer any people or things you need to confess before Him. SGF has also included three daily suggestions to help inspire your prayer life. Stretch yourself to pray for people or places you've never prayed for before. Ask God to bring you awareness of topics or places you know little about - for example, it's ok to be stumped on what to pray for Antarctica! You may find yourself surprised at how your ears and eyes are more tuned in to current events as you continue with this practice.)
- for governments, world leaders, and the needs of our world
- for the continent of South America
- for the poor and poverty issues
(Each of these structured prayers are rooted in Reformed confessions of faith. Though they may feel a bit stiff, allow the prayers to give a larger voice to your spirit, to inform what you've read today, and to grow a fuller prayer life.)
Everlasting God, through Christ's resurrection you guarantee life restored, sharing your glory, victory, and righteousness. Inject my everyday living with that bright hope, lifting my heart, giving fresh legs for weary days, and steadying a sometimes woozy and wobbly faith. In Jesus' name, amen. (HC 45)
(Close your time in prayer with a final blessing, reminding yourself of God's intentions for us, sending you out into your day wrapped in grace and everlasting peace.)
"May your unfailing love come to me, Lord, your salvation, according to your promise." (Ps. 119: 41)