The Daily Office is an ancient prayer practice and structure of the church. The word "office" comes from the Latin word opus, or "work," and the early church considered the Daily Office to be the "work of God." In her book The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Winter, Phyllis Tickle writes that the Daily Office was "an act of offering...by the creature to the Creator...prayers of praise offered as sacrifices of thanksgiving and faith to God and as sweet-smelling incense...before the throne of God."
The core of the Daily Office is setting aside certain times throughout the day to stop and pray. We know from Scripture that this was a common practice for ancient Jewish people: Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10), and after Jesus' resurrection his disciples prayed at certain hours of the day (Acts 3:1; 10:9). Around 525 AD, Saint Benedict structured these prayer times around eight Daily Offices, including one in the middle of the night for monks. This became known as the Rule of St. Benedict.
The Daily Office is not so much turning to God to get something but to be with Someone. The aim is to create a continual and easy familiarity with God's presence throughout the day. The Benedictine monks learned that the rhythm of stopping throughout the day makes practicing the presence of God possible.
In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero writes, "The great power in setting apart small units of time for morning, midday, and evening prayer infuses into the rest of my day's activities a deep sense of the sacred, of God...The Daily Office, practiced consistently, actually eliminates any division of the sacred and secular in our lives."
Because God has wired us all differently, each person's Daily Office plan must be flexible and fit to their own person. What works for one person may not work for someone else. You choose the number of times throughout the day to stop and pray, and the length of them. Remember, the goal is regular remembrance of God, not length. With that said, there are four elements that should be found in any Daily Office plan.
We stop our activity and pause to be with the living God. We give up control and trust God to run the world without us. This is the very essence of the Daily Office. It is crucial that our time with God be unhurried.
We move into God's presence, letting go of tensions, distractions, and sensations, and rest in his love for us. This process, often referred to as centering, includes: being attentive and open; sitting still and straight; breathing slowly and deeply; and closing your eyes or lowering them to the ground. As you breathe in, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. As you breathe out, exhale all that is sinful, false, and not of Him. If your mind wanders, let your breathing bring you back.
We practice quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God. This may be the most challenging element, as we live in a world full of chaos and noise. Many of us fear silence. However, if you read through 1 Kings 19:9-18, you will notice that God speaks to Elijah in a time of silence, after the chaos. He speaks also to us. This is not the aim of the Daily Office, but it is a natural result.
The psalms are the foundation of almost every Daily Office prayer book. Consider beginning there. You may also wish to include both Old Testament and New Testament readings in your Daily Office plan. Begin by meditating on one phrase. Be attentive in your heart to what God is doing inside of you.