As I mentioned a few days ago, I think you can make a strong argument that prayer together is the fundamental Christian prayer. The prayer that Jesus gave us is a community prayer: ‘Our Father…’ Of course we should pray alone, but even when we pray alone, we still pray as members of a community.
Throughout Christian history monastic orders have born witness to the importance, and the power, of daily community prayer. Most of the daily offices we use today originally evolved in monastic settings. And perhaps most of them find their natural home there still. For those of us who aren’t called to celibate community life, they often need a bit of adaptation to fir naturally in our situation.
For most of my Christian life my natural community has been my family. But is it possible that the obligation to pray prayers originally developed for monastic communities might make it harder for us to develop prayer forms that work well for families (especially families with small children)?
I know I usually failed in this way. When my kids were little, we were on-again, off-again in our family prayers – more often off than on. During Advent we were good – everyone loved the Advent wreath and the ‘same old’ Advent book (woe betide us if we tried to change it!). But through the rest of the year – not so much.
Now that Marci and I have the house to ourselves, its easier for us. And for the past few years, we’ve started every day with prayer together. I get up in the morning, make a pot of tea, bring her a cup, and then we sit up in bed with our tea and pray our own ‘poor man’s Morning Prayer’ together, using the bare outline in our Canadian ‘Book of Alternative Services’. It’s very simple; it goes like this:
Opening sentences and either Psalm 95 or Psalm 100
One or two other psalms (depending how long they are) (see below)
A Bible reading, with a commentary (see below)
Each of us prays in our own words
We finish with the Lord’s Prayer
We don’t use the daily lectionary; we find it works better for us if we take one book of the Bible and work our way through it. At the moment we’re going through ‘Mark’ and we’re supplementing it with the daily explanations and comments from Tom Wright’s little book ‘Mark for Everyone’. Tom Wright (‘New Testament for Everyone’ series), William Barclay (‘Daily Study Bible’ series), John Goldingay (‘Old Testament for Everyone’ series) and the Bible Reading Fellowship ‘People’s Bible Commentary’ series (now available as PDF downloads at https://www.brfonline.org.uk/commentary-downloads/) are all very good and helpful.
For psalms, we start at the beginning of the book and work our way through it, usually doing two psalms a day. If they’re especially long, we might just do one. If they’re very short, we sometimes do three.
In the prayers after the reading, we both have little lists that we use. I’m hopeless at remembering all the people who’ve asked me to pray for them, so I keep a list and revise it every week. We pray for our own concerns, family and friends, wider concerns and world issues (of which there are rather a lot right now!), and try to remember to add thanksgivings too.
We’ve tried adding Evening Prayer to our routine as well, but it rarely seems to work for our schedules. But we rarely miss Morning Prayer; I’d say we average six days out of seven each week. I like this because it keeps me steady, draws us closer together, and gives me a Bible reading partner who thinks differently from me.
I don’t know what your pattern of daily prayer is – or if you have a prayer partner you can pray with regularly. If you would like to start daily common prayer with someone, I commend this as a model that might work for you.