Priest, What Are You Doing In Your Bedroom?

On the other hand, I find that the prayers to which I can most fully attend in church are always those I have most often used in my bedroom.¹

C.S. Lewis

Many Anglican priests are not serving in a parish or other context where we lead a corporate Morning or Evening Prayer service, but that does not excuse us (or our parishioners) from praying them. Our ordination vows explicitly call us to be diligent in the reading of Holy Scripture and in prayer. There may be an occasion when you are called upon to lead the daily office in a public setting, and when you do, everyone will be able to tell if you are faithful in keeping the Daily Offices of the church.

Anyone can get tongue-tied or forget what day of the week it is from time to time, but if you are leading public worship, you would better serve those present by being familiar with what you are saying. You should be conversant in the prayers such that they flow from your lips as though second nature.  If there is something unusual in the liturgy due to the the season or some other observance, you do well to review it before you take to the lectern.

You might not observe all the rubrics of posture in your bedroom, but you should be familiar with them. They convey not only physical movement, but serve as markers for what is about to happen in the common section of the Office. Learn to cue those present with the least amount of talking possible. “Please stand” and “please kneel” are sufficient.

The critical point of all this is not saving you embarrassment when asked to lead the Daily Office. When you fumble through the Office, you make it difficult for those gathered to engage in prayer. The gravest concern is that those who are entrusted to nurture and form those in their charge are failing to be formed themselves. When you are unfamiliar with the Daily Offices, the cornerstone of our formation as Anglicans, you send the message that they are unimportant and that you don’t uphold them personally.

If you, as a priest, are not convinced of the efficacy of the threefold regula as a vehicle for formation in Christ-likeness, then some self-examination is in order. You are ordained as a steward and keeper of this ancient tradition. How can you instruct others in what you do not practice? How can you exhort obedience to that which you neglect?

When you stand before your congregation, they will see what you do in private. It will be obvious whether or not you are faithfully praying the Daily Offices. This is not about a performance; on the contrary, it is about being formed in the manner of our church.

Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.²

C.S. Lewis


¹ Lewis, C.S. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1964. p. 130
² ibid. p. 12

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1 Comment

Filed under Anglicanism, Book of Common Prayer, Discipline, Priesthood

One response to “Priest, What Are You Doing In Your Bedroom?

  1. The Venerable Mark B. Nordstrom

    Chris+

    Well put! Thanks for these “azimuth checks.”

    Mike+

    Suggest we disseminate this thoughtful call for discipline throughout our Jurisdiction.

    >

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