“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3).
“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17)
“It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:1,2).
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:164).
What’s a good time of day to praise the Lord, to remember his faithfulness, to call on him in prayer? As the psalm verses above remind us, any time is a fitting time! For many centuries, Christians have set aside certain times during the morning, noon, and night to gather for prayer, song, and Scripture. These brief services came to be known as the Daily Office. (“Office” is from the Latin officium, which here refers to a service.) Some services were very short, while others lasted a little longer. Over time, certain psalms, hymns, and canticles got connected to certain times of day. But each typically included, to one degree or another, the reading of Scripture, psalmody, prayer, and hymnody.
The new hymnal will include services of the Daily Office. Two of these services are familiar, since versions of them appear in Christian Worship and The Lutheran Hymnal. For centuries Lutherans have, in various forms, prayed Matins (Morning Praise) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). Martin Luther himself advocated observing these times of prayer and praise in the morning and evening, and Lutherans have taken his advice. In addition, in recent years many have become fond of the service of Compline (KAHM-plin), or Prayer at the Close of Day. Compline’s calm tone and times for reflection help to quiet minds and hearts as the night draws near.
The print edition of the hymnal will include musical settings of Matins, Vespers, and, new to this hymnal, a musical setting of Compline. The current plan is to offer several additional musical settings of these services in digital resources. Some of these, like Marty Haugen’s version of Morning Praise and his Holden Evening Prayer, have found a home in many WELS congregations already.
The Daily Office will give the shape also to the devotions in the hymnal. Whatever the time of day, both individuals and groups will be able to find short, text-only forms to guide them during a little time with their Lord. An individual might use one of these devotions early in the morning during their Bible reading time. A Christian school might make use of one for a classroom devotion as the afternoon begins. A church council meeting could close with a five-minute, spoken version of Compline.
Whatever the time of day, may the Lord be praised and his love proclaimed!
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8).