How to Lead a Daily Office Service (Morning or Evening Prayer) for a Group

How to Lead a Daily Office Service (Morning or Evening Prayer) for a Group

Joshua Steele

Joshua Steele

Editor of Rookie Anglican at Anglican Pastor
Josh founded Rookie Anglican to help make Anglicanism more accessible to Anglicans and the Anglicurious. Read his blog at JOSHUAPSTEELE.COM and follow him on Twitter: @joshuapsteele.
Joshua Steele

Daily Office: Easier Said (Alone) than Done (With a Group)!

In the interests of making the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer) more accessible, I’ve been putting together Daily Office Booklets for a while now. Ideally, with just a Bible and a booklet, you should be able to work your way through both Morning and Evening Prayer on your own without very much trouble. (If I’m wrong on that, please let me know! I want the booklets to be as straightforward and user-friendly as possible!)

However, it occurred to me that, although the Daily Office is a wonderful way to gather with other Christians for prayer, Scripture reading, and worship, it’s not immediately obvious (even with a user-friendly prayer book) how one goes about leading such a gathering.

Who says what? How do you know what to read and when? Etc. etc. These are the kinds of things I learned with practice — leading Morning Prayer as an intern at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, AL!

In case you don’t have the opportunity to learn on the job as an intern, I thought I’d put together a short guide to leading a Daily Office service, whether Morning or Evening Prayer, on your own for a group. However, two things before we begin:

  1. The setting I have in mind is a Morning or Evening Prayer service for a small group of people outside of an “official” Daily Office service provided at a church. I’m picturing a group of people gathered together in someone’s living room. So, while a lot of the principles are transferable, I’m not going to get into all the idiosyncratic specifics (where everyone should sit respective to the altar, when to bow to the altar, etc.) of leading the Daily Office at your local church.
  2. You’ll see that using the Daily Office Booklet actually settles some of these issues for you in advance (such as figuring out the liturgical date and looking up readings). However, I’m going to give instructions more generally, as if you were primarily using one of the “standard” Books of Common Prayer.

OK! With those things in mind, let’s begin!

Preparations before Leading the Daily Office: Answer the Following Questions

Answer the following questions, and you should be able to lead a Daily Office service with few difficulties (the links will take you to the appropriate section below):

  1. What liturgy/service/Prayer Book will you use? How will people access it?
  2. What’s the liturgical date?
  3. What are the Scripture readings/lessons? Who will read them?
  4. Which canticle(s), if any, will you read or chant between the Scripture readings?
  5. Will there be a homily, reflection, or sermon? What will you say? Who will lead it?
  6. Which Collect(s) will you pray? Who will pray them?
  7. How will you introduce the various liturgical elements and transitions?
  8. Where will people sit? Will they have room to sit/stand/kneel?

Now, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed below, remember that this all gets MUCH easier once you get used to it! Hang in there, and contact me if you have any questions.


What Liturgy/Service/Prayer Book Will You Use? How Will People Access It?

If you’re using the Daily Office Booklet, then you’ll be using the ACNA’s Daily Office Liturgies and Lectionary (accessible in their “raw” form here). Also, if you’re using the Daily Office Booklet, you’ll probably want everyone to have physical copies of the booklet with them (since we don’t yet have an app! sorry!).

However, there are a bunch of other options out there as far as Morning and Evening Prayer liturgies and lectionaries go. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are some well-known Prayer Books that contain liturgies for the Daily Office:

Other “All-in-One” Resources for the Daily Office

If you’re not using our Daily Office Booklet, then consider checking out the following resources, which will prevent you from having to look up the liturgical date, readings, and collect(s) on your own:

***So, just to clarify, if you’re using our Daily Office Booklet, Mission St. Clare’s Daily Office, The Trinity Mission’s Daily Office, or Common Worship’s Daily Prayer, you WILL NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT LOOKING UP THE LITURGICAL DATE, THE SCRIPTURE READINGS, THE CANTICLES, OR THE COLLECTS.***

However, you should still think through HOW YOU WILL INTRODUCE, INSTRUCT, AND TRANSITION as the leader, as well as WHERE PEOPLE WILL SIT/STAND/KNEEL.


What’s the Liturgical Date?

If the phrases “liturgical date,” “church calendar,” and/or “Christian year” are new to you, check out our introduction to the liturgical year: “What Time Is It? – An Overview of the Church Calendar and Liturgical Year.”

My go-to resource for looking up the liturgical date is The Lectionary Page. It’s what I use both to look up the liturgical date in a pinch, and also to add the calendar dates in advance for the Daily Office Booklets.

If, for some reason, The Lectionary Page is no longer available when you’re reading this, try the following pages, which contain calendar resources, among other things:


What are the Scripture Readings/Lessons?

After you’ve figured out the liturgical date, it’s much easier to figure out which Scriptures should be read. There are usually the following readings:

  • Psalm(s)
  • First Lesson (usually from the OT)
  • Second Lesson (usually from the NT)

Revised Common Lectionary [RCL]

If you’re using the Revised Common Lectionary (which, by the way, is the lectionary that’s incorporated into the 1979 Book of Common Prayer), then I think the easiest way to find out the readings is to use the BCP: Daily Office Readings app (iOS; Android).

You can also look up the Scripture readings within the Mission St. Clare app (iOS; Android). Just scroll down through the service until you reach the readings.

If an app’s not your style, then try Satucket’s Lectionary Page. Scroll down to the “Daily Office and Daily Eucharistic Lectionary” or “Calendar View” sections.

Other Lectionaries

Who Will Read Them?

If you’re leading the service, you can also read the Scripture passages.

However, it’s also appropriate (and even preferable) to ask other people to do so. Think through this beforehand, and only ask someone to read “on the spot” who can handle it. Otherwise, ask them in advance. And let them know which passage they’ll be reading, so that they can practice and prepare.


Which Canticle(s), if Any, Will You Read or Chant Between the Scripture Readings?

A canticle is a hymn, psalm, or song taken from or based on Scripture. They usually precede and separate the Psalm, first Scripture reading, and second Scripture reading in the Daily Office.

If you’re leading the Daily Office, you need to figure out which canticle(s) you’re going to use, where you’ll use them in the service, and how you’ll use them.

Which Canticle(s)

As for which canticles you’ll use, you’ll find canticle options included in the Books of Common Prayer Morning and Evening Prayer liturgies.

For example, the 1979 BCP lists the following canticle options:

  • For Before the Psalm
    • Venite
    • Jubilate
  • For After a Lesson/Reading
    • Christ Our Passover (Pascha nostrum)
    • A Song of Creation (Benedicite, omnia opera Domini)
    • A Song of Praise (Benedictus es, Domine)
    • The Song of Mary (Magnificat)
    • The Song of Zechariah (Benedictus Dominus Deus)
    • The Song of Simeon (Nunc dimittis)
    • Glory be to God (Gloria in excelsis)
    • We Praise Thee (Te Deum laudamus)

Where to Use Canticle(s)

Which liturgy/service you use will also determine where you use the canticle(s). Although, they usually go:

  1. before the Psalm reading
  2. after the first Scripture reading (usually from the OT)
  3. after the second Scripture reading (usually from the NT)

So: Canticle, Psalm, OT/First Lesson, Canticle, NT/Second Lesson, Canticle

How to Use Canticle(s)

As for how you’ll use the canticle(s), you have the following options:

  • Read
    • Just the leader (don’t do this, incorporate the group!)
    • Whole thing, in unison
    • Responsively, by whole verse
    • Responsively, by half verse
  • Chant
    • Just the leader
    • Whole thing, in unison
    • Responsively, by whole verse
    • Responsively, by half verse

You don’t have to chant the canticles, of course. However, chanting is pretty fun! You should give it a try sometime. If you’re interested, I’ve put together basic chanting guides for the following canticles:

Of course, I’m just a rookie (hehe) when it comes to chanting! Check out further chanting resources from The Cradle of Prayer. Also, all my chanting experience has come from the 1940 Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church (link goes to Hymnary.org, which has the entire hymnal online as page scans). The 1940 Hymnal has its own guide to chanting, which is available starting on page 697 of the hymnal.


Will There Be a Reflection, Sermon, or Homily?

It’s not necessary, but it is appropriate to have a reflection, sermon, or homily based upon one or more of the Scripture readings during Morning or Evening Prayer.

If you’d like to insert a homily/sermon into the service, I’ve found it easiest to place the sermon between the final Scripture reading and the Apostles’ Creed.

You can also place the sermon after the particular reading that the sermon will be about, perhaps in place of the Canticle that would usually follow that reading.

What will you say? Or: Who will lead it?

Of course, if you’re going to give a homily/sermon, you should think through what you’d like to say — especially if you’ve never done something like this before. This post isn’t the place to give thorough instruction in preaching. The main thing I want to emphasize is that the exposition of the Word of God is important, and it should not be taken lightly.

Another option is to ask someone else to give a homily/sermon. In general, you should avoid asking someone to give a reflection on the spot. Instead, try to give them as much time as possible to prepare and get their thoughts in order.


Which Collect(s) Will You Pray?

Time for another shameless plug. To learn more about the “collect” prayers, check out our series “Collect Reflections,” especially the introductory post: “Announcing Collect Reflections: Reflecting on the Collects of the Christian Year.”

Anyways, what you need to know is that every day of the liturgical year has a “Collect of the Day” that is usually prayed during the second half of Morning and Evening Prayer.

  • If it’s Sunday, then you use the Collect for that Sunday
  • If it’s Monday – Saturday, you either use:
    • the Collect from the previous Sunday, which covers the whole week, as it were, or
    • the Collect of the specific day, if it happens to be a feast day

As you can tell, you need to know the liturgical date in order to know which Collect(s) to pray!

Here are the Collects as found in the various Prayer Books:

So, find the Collect of the Day beforehand, and decide whether or not you’ll pray any additional collects, such as the traditional ones for Peace and Grace, or a Collect for a “various occasion,” as appropriate.

Who Will Pray Them?

The same thing applies here as to the Scripture lessons. As the leader, you can simply pray the Collect(s) on your own.

However, it’s appropriate (and even preferable) to ask other people to do so. Think through this beforehand. You can either ask a particular person/people to pray specific Collects, or you can start by praying the Collect of the Day and then having others pray the remaining Collects in rotation.

There’s no one right way to do this. BUT, you should decide what you’re going to do beforehand, to avoid this becoming a distraction when it comes time to pray the Collect(s).


How Will You Introduce the Various Liturgical Elements and Transitions?

There are different ways of doing this, of course, but it pays to think through your introductions, instructions, and transitions beforehand, so that you’re not caught “ummmmm”ing or tripping over your words unnecessarily as the leader. Here are some of my go-to phrases when leading Morning and Evening Prayer:

  • POSTURES (for more information on some liturgical postures and acts, check out “Liturgical Dance Moves“)
    • “Please stand” (appropriate when praising [during the canticles] or praying)
    • “Please kneel, if you are able” (appropriate when praying or confessing sin)
    • “Please be seated” (appropriate when listening to Scripture being read)
  • INVITING GROUP TO JOIN
    • IN CONFESSION
      • “Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor”
      • “Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God”
    • IN THE CANTICLES
      • “Please stand, and let us chant…
        • …together the [name of canticle]”
        • …the _____ responsively, by whole verse”
        • …the _____ responsively, by half verse”
      • “Please stand, and let us read…
        • …together the _____”
        • …the _____ responsively, by whole verse”
        • …the _____ responsively, by half verse”
    • IN THE CREED
      • “And now let us stand together and confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.”
      • Simply start, slowly and somewhat loudly “I BELIEVE IN GOD,” then resume normal pace and volume once everyone joins
    • IN THE LORD’S PRAYER
      • “And now, as our Savior taught us, we are bold to pray…”
      • Simply start, slowly and somewhat loudly “OUR FATHER,” then resume normal pace and volume once everyone joins
    • IN A COLLECT/PRAYER
      • “Together, let us pray…”
      • “Together…”
    • IN OFFERING THEIR OWN INTERCESSIONS/PRAYERS/THANKSGIVINGS
      • “And now I invite you to offer your own intercessions, prayers, and thanksgivings…”
    • IN THE GENERAL THANKSGIVING
      • “Together, let us give thanks…”
  • WHEN READING SCRIPTURE
    • BEFORE
      • “A reading from [name of biblical book].”
      • “A lesson from _____.”
      • “A reading/lesson from _____, beginning in the __th chapter at the __th verse.”
    • AFTER
      • “The Word of the Lord” (group responds: “Thanks be to God.”)
      • “Here ends the reading/lesson.” (especially when reading is from Apocrypha)

Where Will People Sit? Will They Have Room to Sit/Stand/Kneel?

I’ve saved this question for last, but by no means is it the least important!

The Anglican tradition, in particular, reminds us of the sacred value of time and space! The physical world, including our bodies and their surroundings, matters!

So, make sure that you don’t spend all your time preparing to lead liturgically without also giving thought to leading physically/spatially. Make sure that the place you’ll do Morning or Evening Prayer has sufficient room to sit, stand, and kneel. OR, if space is insufficient for one or more of those liturgical postures, know that in advance so you can alter your instructions accordingly! After all, there’s no point asking people to kneel if it would be physically impossible (or at least extraordinarily inconvenient) for them to do so.

Again, to review, here are the guidelines for postures during prayer:

  • Stand to praise (or pray)
  • Sit to listen (to Scripture being read)
  • Kneel to pray (/confess)

However, feel free to alter these as circumstances demand. The main thing: think through what you’re going to do beforehand, to avoid it becoming a distraction during prayer.


I hope this was helpful! If you can think of any improvements to this guide, please let me know (in the comments below, or at @joshuapsteele, or at joshuapsteele.com). I’m especially interested in other resources to add, whether Daily Office apps or chanting tutorials!

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