The Daily Offices & ELW

Lee, Derek, LutherPunk and others around the blogosphere are chatting about Philip H. Pfatteicher’s article over at Lutheran Forum, "Reforming the Daily Offices: Examining Two New Lutheran Books."  Some thoughts . . .

The settings for Daily Prayer in Evangelical Lutheran Worship may or
may not be good, as far as Daily Prayer setting go – I wouldn’t know.
I am not an expert on the shape, practice or tradition of The Daily

But please excuse if I’m not terribly worked up about the Daily Offices in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  I know some of you who keep an eye on my blog are devotees of the Daily Office, and I commend you for your discipline and love for a great tradition of the church.  But in the nearly 500 years of Lutheran history I am hard-pressed to find a widespread congregational practice of praying the Daily Offices in community or in personal piety.  Of the many things Lutherans are known for – the proclamation of the Word, grace, a paradoxical theolgy, sacramental practice, hymnody, etc. – a spirited dedication to the Daily Offices is not one of them.

Futhermore, the closest thing we Lutherans have to a prescribed form of daily prayer is found in Luther’s Small Catechism, where he writes:

In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say:
“God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well:

“I give thanks to you, my heavenly Father through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me this night from all harm and danger, and I ask you that you would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you completely. For into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

After singing a hymn perhaps (for example, one on the Ten Commandments) or whatever else may serve your devotion, you are to go to your work joyfully.

(He also repeats this order with a slightly different "little prayer" for evening and as a table blessing.  Cited from the Kolb/Wengert edition of The Book of Concord).

This order of daily prayer appears with slight enhancements in Evangelical Lutheran Worship as "Responsive Prayer," and also was published in the Common Service Book, the Service Book and Hymnal, and the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Of course, this order of daily prayer is contained within the Small Catechism, which has been a tool for teaching and praying the faith in church and home for hundreds of years.  Perhaps this simple order of responsive prayer – traditionally referred to as The Suffrages – has seen more ink in Lutheran circles than any Daily Office that is shared with Anglicans, Catholics and others.  Perhaps this is the closest thing we Lutherans can claim as a native or closely-held tradition of Daily Prayer.  Perhaps.

Nonetheless, I have no idea how widespread this practice of prayer is, either by congregations or by individuals.  Anecdotally, my college parish offered this service at noon on Thursdays, and I know of some churches who use this order for prayer prior to council and committee meetings.  My experience with the Daily Offices in the Lutheran tradition has overwhelmingly been in Wednesday evening seasonal services, particularly during Lent.

But back to our friend Philip H. Pfatteicher.  I’m inclined to agree with Tom in Ontario, who remarked on LutherPunk’s blog, "Pfatteicher sounds like a grumpy old curmudgeon in his entire article."  From his complaints about the lack of Latin terminology in the rubrics to his griping about the variety of worship practices enabled by Evangelical Lutheran Worship, he seems to hold onto a modernist hope that all the Lutheran world would pray in an identical (Latin-rubric-defined) way despite our cultural, social, economic and theological diversity. 

Furthermore, we are a tradition that has always allowed, even if not always celebrated, diversity in worship practice.  What is central is the Word and Sacrament, not any Latin-phrased rubric or ancient pattern of prayer.  We Lutherans are bold enough to believe that it

. . . is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that there the gospel is preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.
– Article VII, Augsburg Confession (Kolb/Wengert, Book of Concord)

As I said above, these liturgies may or may not be excellent examples of Christian liturgics.  Surely Evangelical Lutheran Worship diverges in some ways from the liturgical plumb line that many consider the Book of Common Prayer to be.  But is this awful?  I recently led our congregation in a Thanksgiving for Baptism, a rite that I believe is an innovation of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Though it can use greater congregational participation – it’s a presider-heavy rite – this new rite appropriately lifts up baptism as core to our identity, and calls on Christians to recall the gift of grace bestowed in baptism at the opening of the liturgy.  Again I ask, is this awful?

Finally, a word about Pfatteicher’s conspiracy theories.  The liberal anti-masculine language leftwing of the ELCA did not drive the need for a new worship book, and neither did the needs of a struggling publishing house.  I am a former sales rep for Augsburg Fortress Publishers, and was amazed at the number of churches who were purchasing and using much more than simply the Lutheran Book of Worship.  From GIA resources to evangelical songbooks to With One Voice and a number of non-Lutheran downloaded resources, increasing number of churches were setting Lutheran Book of Worship aside, or supplementing it significantly.  If the ELCA did not step up to create a new worship book, our congregations would simply look elsewhere for worship materials, as they already had been doing since the early 1990s.

And did anyone notice that masculine language is alive and well in ELW?  Father, Son, King, Lord, He . . .

Oh my, there is so much more to say, but children beckon me to the playground . . .

Published by Lutheran Zephyr

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

11 thoughts on “The Daily Offices & ELW

  1. A few comments:
    1. You are probably right that Dr. Pfatteicher did not accurately describe the reasoning behind the creation of two worship books. He’s been getting quite a bit of flak from LCMS’ers on the ALPB Forum Online, as well as from ELCA’ers.
    I do think, however, that issues surrounding inclusive language were a driving factor in the content of ELW. How else does one explain the wholesale rewriting of the Gospel Canticles and Psalms to eliminate masculine pronouns and the excision of “Father” from prayers and collects? In other words, everything was neutered outside of the Ordinary, the Ecumenical Creeds, and the Lord’s Prayer. Everything that could be changed without wholesale revolt from the pews was changed. To opine that you can still find lots of male pronouns in hymns, texts, etc. is simply to obfuscate. Pfatteicher goes into detail about why these changes are theologically and liturgically unsound. I don’t think you have actually engaged his arguments.
    2. There is of course has always been a running argument within Lutheranism about how CA 7 actually applies to our worship books. Far from being simply a “curmudgeon,” Dr. Pfatteicher obviously subscribes to the notion of lex orandi, lex credendi, and that therefore our worship books shape our prayer life and our experrience of prayer. There has been a radical shift in the past twenty to thirty years in how Lutherans were taught in the seminary to do liturgy. In fact, at least as I experienced it in seminary (I am a recent graduate), we were taught about liturgy in worship class, but none of those learnings needed apply to what we did in chapel. Students were not taught how to serve the people by being servants of the liturgy, but instead felt they had every time to create something new and exciting. I was subjected to experiment after experiment as fellow students led chapel, little of which enabled me to worship God, but almost all of which forced me to encounter the work of the worship leader and whether I liked it or not.
    The current attitude towards worship seems to value subjectivity over objectivity, innovation over tradition, and personality over precision. I find Dr. Pfatteicher’s analysis to be quite compelling.
    3. The Lutheran Book of Worship was one of the fruits of the liturgical movement of the 20th century, In that movement, the best liturgical scholarship brought the separated churches closer together through their worship. This also brought Lutherans closer to their heritage in the Western Catholic church. Dr. Pfatteicher’s point seems to be that years of careful scholarship has been bypassed in order that people should be completely subjective in their creation of flexible worship services. Again, this assumes there is one right way to do prayer, or rather, that “Daily Prayer” is not just prayer we do every day, but is a specific kind of prayer that is best practiced when based upon the traditions shared within the Western Catholic church.
    Of course, in the spirit of diversity, we don’t have to use ELW. We can use Dr. Pfatteicher’s excellent prayer book, The Daily Prayer of the Church, or ALPB’s For All the Saints, or even continue using LBW. But the angry tone of this article, I’m sure, comes from the idea that an opportunity has been missed to teach the church how to pray. Pastors, seminarians and laity will apparently be left to themselves and their feelings about how to pray.
    4. One more thing. Dr. Pfatteicher was a professor of English. It was once considered a necessity to be precise in one’s use of language (C.S. Lewis was a stickler for this.) It’s not a problem for me that Dr. Pfatteicher wants the ELW to say what it means and mean what it says.

  2. Maurice,
    Thank you for your articulate comments.
    The seminary you attended is not the seminary where Gordon Lathrop, the much maligned (if not named) professor in Dr. Pfatteicher’s article, used to teach. At LTSP there was no room for creativity or do-it-yourself liturgies, as there was at your seminary and also at a seminary I attended for one year on the South Side . . .
    But, in response to your points:
    1. Once a decision to create a new worship book was made, I think the language issue became central. But let’s not do a chicken-and-egg thing here. The language issue did not give birth to the creation of a new worship book. Rather, that a significant number of Lutheran churches were turning to other sources for worship resources was the reason the ELCA (with the blessing of the Churchwide Assembly) and Augsburg Fortress created these new resources.
    2. Good point, and Lutherans of good conscience will continue to disagree on these matters of adiaphora and Christian Freedom. Yet at the same time, ELW is hardly an embodiment of the chaotic chapel services you suffered through at seminary. What you experienced at seminary is probably the manifestation of a Lutheran identity crisis that results when too many Lutheran traditions merge too quickly and try to become uniform in practice . . . To some, the ELW might dumb down the liturgy to GATHERING, WORD, MEAL, SENDING, but this outlines does describe a basic pattern of the ancient Mass, even if it its lingo, formulations, or rubrics vary from that found on the earlies of manscripts. ELW’s rooting in tradition – even a flexible interpretation of tradition – is much more than most of your seminary chapel services can probably claim.
    3. I’m not sure that liturgical renewal is all that it was cracked up to be. More to say about that later, perhaps.
    In a denomination that honors freedom in nonessentials and which claims hold to a paradoxical theology that expects to see God at work both within and beyond the church walls, I would hope that our worship practices would be transformed by the activity of the Spirit both within and beyond the church; that is, that our worship practices would be informed in part by what God is doing in the world. To this end, I invite innovation in worship practices insofar as innovation enhances the proclamation of the Word. I don’t presume that one ancient pattern of prayer is best for people today.
    4. I agree with you on this point. Though Pfatteicher still seems to yearn for the SBH rubrics that stand as inflexible commands, he is right to point out that some of the ELW rubrics are less than clear.

  3. I’ve learned a lot from all this discussion and one thing I’ve learned is that we seem to make too big a deal out of getting a new book and how it might “transform” worship or prayer, etc.
    I older than you guys, but not retirement age yet. I’ve used at least 6 different books put out by the ELCA or predecessor bodies in my lifetime. The “form” seems to be what is “traditional,” not the specifics. And some of those liturgies are hard to teach to some congregations. As my sister put it, “Our church is still learning the green book.” She said that they have people who drive 30 miles to attend her church because the organist plays really slowly and that is what they like. There just aren’t that many churches who have trained organists or musicians that they send to some of the classes.
    I see that the new hymnal has a version out with easier accompaniment.
    In addition, I’ve attended at different branch of Lutheranism that is in my family history. They finally got a new book…the old one was from the ’30s, I think. At least there, when you talked about traditional liturgy, it really WAS traditional to the people in the pews. Now they have a new book with more “contemporary” music as well….if by that you might mean some songs from my youth. It is meant to appeal to an new audience…I don’t think so!

  4. I thought Pfatteicher’s article was something on the order of a “liturgical rant.” He tosses around wild accusations–some liberal cabal is out to get “father-language,” and Augsburg/Fortress is behind the deal to sell books. I wanted to say: Put up or shut up. Give us actual evidence, or quit spreading gossip and innuendo. Plus, he was just cranky and grumpy throughout.

  5. John,
    Actual evidence for some at least being ‘out to get father-language:’
    1. The vast majority of collects and Eucharistic Prayers addressed to ‘God’ for the first person of the Trinity rather than ‘Father.’
    2. The Psalms and Gospel Canticles rewritten in second-person direct address rather than third-person proclamation so as to avoid the personal pronoun ‘he.’ And notice that the Gloria Patri has neatly been excised from the Gospel Canticles as well.
    3. Something no one has mentioned yet: the option given in every single service of invoking the Holy Trinity without actually saying the name of said Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It could have been worse. At least we don’t have to put up with the modalism of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier at every synod and Churchwide assembly.

  6. I am a brand new member of a Lutheran parish (ELCA) and having come from an Anglican tradition I’ve been trying to find some information on how to do the Offices from the ELW and haven’t found much at all. Once I get my own copy, I’ll probably typeset a little booklet for my own use without the musical notation.. something that looks closer to what is done in the Book of Common Prayer. The only thing I might continue to use from the BCP, is the daily office which strikes me as considerably more substantial then the ELW daily lectionary.. (which I imagine was the daily lectionary of the Lutheran Book of Worship)

    I could also cave and grab the LCMS’s new Treasury of Daily Prayer.. any ‘Anglo-Lutheran’ types have any additional suggestions? 🙂

    It sure would be nice if we could have one common daily office, with uniform prayer texts and lectionary wouldn’t it? I can dream.. 🙂

    1. You’ll want to check out Bread for the Day, from Augsburg Fortress. Published annually, it offers rites for morning and evening prayer, with readings, hymn suggestion, and a prayer of the day. Not quite BCP Daily Office, of course, but very good indeed.

      1. I’ll definitely check out the ‘Bread for the Day’ resource, thank you. 🙂

        I hope I’m not coming across as too much of a curmudgeon either, just slowly adjusting to a more Lutheran ethos. I recently looked at the responsive prayers in the Lutheran Book of Worship and they are really good, essentially Martin Luther’s daily devotion with some additional office material provided to give it a more supplicatory tone. The format does mirror the Daily Offices in a way. I imagine the ELW has something similar.

        It’s worth pointing out, btw, that even the older editions of the Book of Common Prayer included a section of brief morning and evening prayers for the family consisting only of an invitation to read scripture, a collect or two, and the Lord’s Prayer.. that’s it. (you can see this devotion in use in the movie “Gone with the Wind”.) The 1979 Book has a similar approach with it’s one page long “Devotions for Individuals and Families”. So I would have to say that both the average Lutheran and Anglican enjoy alot of freedom in how they pray.. although their historic emphasis’s certainly differ. So long as we are reading Scripture daily, and praying daily.. at the end of the day, personal preferences aside, that’s the most important thing.

  7. Brett, don’t be afraid to use Treasury of Daily Prayer published by Concordia. It is n excellent prayer resource. I am a Lutheran in a family of Lutherans and Roman Catholics and have a collection of prayer materials that could fill a seminary library. Bread for the Day is good but TDP is far better, IMHO.

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