This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The following introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.
A Guide for Daily Prayer
The 17th-century Anglican bishop Jeremy Taylor famously said, “Pray frequently and effectually; I had rather your prayers should be often than long.” Devoted to Prayer is a devotional aid to help you build a habit of more regular and purposeful prayer, with daily Scripture readings and reflections from the lives of saints who have gone before. It is arranged in the Lutheran prayer tradition and suitable for all Christians seeking a deeper relationship with God. This guide includes three times of prayer (Morning, Evening, Close of Day) for every day of the year. Traditionally, these prayers were observed at set times:
- Morning—upon waking, or with breakfast;
- Evening—at end of work day, or with dinner;
- Close of Day—before sleep, or when the family retires.
Using Devoted to Prayer does not require you to pray all three times a day. You should choose a frequency of prayer that is suitable to your growth as a disciple of Jesus. Many who use this book may only pray twice a day at times most convenient for them. Begin where you are.
As you strengthen your habit of prayer, we recommend the following practices:
For those BEGINNING a practice of daily prayer…
- Commit to pray at least once a day.
- Keep your prayers brisk so that you do not feel overburdened by the daily effort.
- Memorize THE LORD’S PRAYER and CONFESSION.
- Pray freely for your felt needs when prompted by PERSONAL PRAYER.
- Read simply the gospel passage from the LESSONS for the day.
For those GROWING into the rhythms of daily prayer…
- Commit to pray at least two times per day.
- Memorize each opening ANTIPHON.
- In your PERSONAL PRAYERS, pray in specific ways for the church, the world, your government, and your loved ones.
- Use the full Bible reading plan for the LESSONS.
For those with a MATURE habit of daily prayer…
- Commit to praying all three times per day. Vary the pace of your prayers as the Lord directs you. Use the prayers for festivals and commemorations and learn about the lives of the saints.
- Memorize the PSALMS and CANTICLES.
- Collect and track PERSONAL PRAYERS in a journal. Give thanks to God for answered prayer and pray for friends and family who do not know the Lord.
- Supplement the LESSONS with a Bible Study Guide or a commentary
- Learn how to sing or chant the prayer services. Visit thenalc.org/worship to find the music.
Why Pray At Set Times?
Building a habit of daily prayer ensures that a Christian’s relationship with God is not forgotten throughout the day. It reminds us that we are to “pray without ceasing” in every context of our lives. Since the earliest days of the church, Christians have prayed at set times. This practice was the continuation of an older Jewish tradition attested in the Psalms: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).
Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries and cathedral churches—inspired by Psalm 119:164—continued the practice by praying seven times a day. The frequency and complexity of the “Daily Office” gradually excluded the laity from the prayers of the church. By the eve of the Reformation, sadly, these prayers were almost the sole domain of the clergy and monks.
During the Reformation, leaders such as Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer sought to recover the church’s ancient heritage of regular prayer by translating and simplifying medieval rites for ordinary Christians. Since then, Lutheran churches, seminaries, and homes have recovered the Daily Office through the Lutheran Book of Worship and other Lutheran liturgical resources.
Today, many websites and apps exist to make the Daily Office available and convenient for the lay Christian. But for those without access to or looking to disconnect from a digital device during prayer, using the Lutheran Book of Worship to find all the Scripture readings and parts of daily prayer services can be confusing and cumbersome. Devoted to Prayer adopts a middle road between these options, combining the user-friendliness of an app with the look and feel of paper. Here the Daily Office is presented in a way that renders instructions (also called “rubrics”) easy to follow. Each time of prayer can be found on a single page and can be completed in as little as 8-10 minutes, depending on the length of the Scripture readings.
Prayers At A Glance
The vast majority of the Daily Office is taken from Holy Scripture. Each prayer includes the following elements:
Opening Antiphons: Prayer begins with a verse(s) from scripture suitable for the day of the week and time of day. Most of these verses come from the Psalms.
Psalm: Praying the Psalms is one of the oldest practices of Christian Prayer. Devoted to Prayer selects the “Laudate” psalms (145-150) on a rotation each morning, as well as other psalms for mornings and evening based on the Lutheran Book of Worship. Each appointed Psalm excerpt is about 10-15 verses.
The memorization of large portions of scripture, like the Psalms, is a practice all but lost to Christians today. Rather than appointing popular or random psalms, Devoted to Prayer invites users to meditate deeply on the Laudate psalms throughout the year. Balanced by the other psalms appropriate to the church season, these selections will enable you to pray the entire Psalter several times throughout the year. Praying the Laudate psalms may feel repetitive at first. Do not be discouraged! It takes discipline and patience to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the word of God so that it is “hidden deep within our hearts” (Psalm 119:11).
Remember, the Psalms are the ancient hymns of the church, and together they served as the hymnal for the ancient Israelites. Just as a hymnal today is not meant to be read like a book, the Psalms are meant to be prayed or sung; this is why they are present in each day’s devotional time, rather than treated as a book to read.
A Scripture Lesson: The regular study of Holy Scripture is an essential part of the Christian life. Depending on your level of discipline, each day, you are encouraged to either read lessons appointed by a lectionary or portions derived from your own regular study. Readings from scripture conclude with the prayer “The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God.”
Canticle: This is a song from scripture that has been sung or said by the church for generations. Many canticles have Latin names derived from the song’s first couple of words. Canticles are often said after a scripture reading as a kind of “call and response.” Learning canticles is a great way to memorize scripture. We refer to seven canticles using their traditional Latin names, but three of the gospel canticles marked with an asterisk are found in our times of daily prayer:
- Venite—”O Come”: A Psalm of David (Psalm 95)
- Gloria In Excelsis—”Glory In The Highest”: The Hymn of the Angels (Luke 2:14)
- *Magnificat—”Magnify”: The Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55)
- *Nunc Dimittis—”Now Let”: The Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32)
- *Benedictus—”Blessed Be”: The Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79)
- Te Deum Laudamus—”You Are God We Praise You”: Ambrosian Hymn (used by A.D. 387 at the latest)
- Jubilate—”Be Joyful”: A Psalm of Moses (Psalm 100)
The Lord’s Prayer: A prompt for the Lord’s Prayer is included in each time of prayer. Since the Lord’s Prayer is commonly known and memorized, it is not printed in the daily liturgy. For reference, the text of the Lord’s Prayer is:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Seasonal Prayer: This is a short written prayer (sometimes called a “collect”) that varies with the day and time and often focuses on a single theme. All collects include a declaration about God’s character and a corresponding petition.
Personal Prayer: Each time of prayer includes a prompt for extemporaneous prayer. Here you may include your petitions, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings (1 Timothy 2:1). All Christians are encouraged to regularly pray for the world, the nation, the local community, the church, their neighbors, those who suffer, and those in any trouble.
Grace: Each time of prayer concludes with an invocation of God’s blessing or a verse from Holy Scripture.
Confession of Sin has always been part of the Daily Office. We recommend that you confess your sins to God using this prayer at least once a day:
Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
Grant your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In addition to the three set times of prayer, Devoted to Prayer also includes the following supplementary material:
Seasonal Prayers: These are collects for each season and important feasts of the church year.
Festival & Commemoration Prayers and Readings: These are prayers suitable for lesser festivals, particular persons, or situations worth reflecting on throughout the year. There are links provided for more biographical information and writings found on the NALC website. This in no way reflects any sort of official NALC endorsement of this particular list of saints, but is given here to provide a rich supplement to a congregation or individual’s devotional life. Different levels are importance are given to each festival and commemoration, and are indicated by their font format:
- GREATER FESTIVAL
- lesser festival
- Optional Commemoration
- Instead of reading the prayers in your head, involve your body by verbally saying each prayer aloud.
- Set daily reminders for times to pray using your phone, computer, or clock.
- Use this guide as a companion to your regular reading of Holy Scripture and to enhance your personal and group study.