I suspect that most people have a morning ritual that helps them get moving into the new day. Mine is constructed around the Daily Office, but it’s evolved over the years in ways that may need adjustment.
To begin with, I’m not someone who wakes up full of energy, eager to get going. The long slow grumpy walk to the kitchen for the first cup of coffee is about all I can handle. Conversation with anyone else is not an option. Then I need to get my brain working enough to focus on the daily readings, so I start with the weather report, any breaking family or fire department news on Facebook, and a couple of comics. Another half cup of coffee, and it’s time for prayer.
For many years I read the full office, and a day felt out of kilter if I that didn’t happen. Expediency during travel led to reading only the lessons followed by extemporaneous conversation with God, and that led to being expedient most every day. It’s a lazy way to do things, so I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of the full office. It helps that it is available on line. So what’s so important about the office? Why not a more informal extemporaneous time of prayer? Isn’t the dreadful custom Episcopalians have of praying out of the book less authentic and terribly stilted.
At least for me, I’ve found that extemporaneous prayer is not that extemporaneous. It tends to be fall into a boring rut that consists mostly of requests for God’s blessing on my family and the list of ailing friends I keep in my head (a very poor repository), with an occasional aside to ask a question that seldom gets fully asked because I have the attention span of a dog in a park full of squirrels. The office imposes discipline that leads, or should lead, to a deeper conversation with God, including the silence needed to hear what God might be saying. Moreover, the collects point in different directions each day, and that helps to keep me from getting in a rut. So I’m working on getting back into the office habit. Still, there are some other tweaks to be made.
An acquaintance of mine once complained that reading the newspaper before saying the office was a big mistake, because he found the news raised his anxieties and incited angry feelings (righteous, of course) that got in the way of prayer. He was determined to get prayer first and the news second. Not a bad idea; I think I could do without spending so much time doing my version of the same thing. I need to get my brain working, but maybe a quick glance at the weather is enough. We shall see. As for some of my Adventist friends who have suggested giving up coffee – forget it!