cathedral church of saint luke

Daily Prayer in Anglicanism

Liturgical prayer has many virtues: it prevents individuals from becoming cranky and self-centered, by keeping them in touch with the corporate prayer of the Church; it prevents prayer from floating away in a mist of sentiment, by attaching it to definite times, actions and intentions; it keeps a balance between vocal and other prayer, which is always necessary; and it is a corrective of…dangerous aberrations of the spiritual life. But all these good effects are entirely secondary to its main purpose, which is nothing less than the uniting of the individual in the Church with her divine Head in the perfect worship of God the Father.
— Fr. F. P. Harton, The Elements of the Spiritual Life

Daily Prayer in Anglicanism

The renewal of daily prayer in the lives of every-day Christians “was one of the greatest successes of the English Reformation,” notes James White.[1]  It makes sense then, that in Anglicanism the laity, and not just the clergy, make vows to pray.

Just as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are asked some version of the question, “Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ” in the midst of their ordination vows,[2] so every Christian is asked, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” in the midst of their Baptismal vows.[3]

This article explores the topic of daily prayer in Anglicanism, its history and theology.  The best way to examine this topic (as is true for any topic in Anglicanism) is to look at the Anglican liturgy found in The Book of Common Prayer.  Particularly it’s the Daily Office (DO) liturgy, perhaps more than any other, that most clearly shows the importance of fixed daily prayer in the life of the Anglican Christian.  First we will examine the history of the DO.  And then we will discuss how the DO evidences three key components of the Anglican expression of Christianity: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, Via Media, and the Threefold Rule of Prayer.

The goal of this discussion?  To help us pray.

What is the Daily Office? 

In the opening words of the BCP’s Morning Prayer liturgy we find this description of the DO:

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation.[4] 

In other words…the essential stuff, that’s what the DO contains. 

The DO is a rhythmic pattern and practice of scripture reading, praise, petition, confession, and thanksgiving, offered at fixed times each day.  It includes some of Christianity’s oldest canticles (songs), and invites a wide-lens view of prayer (for self, city, and world).

The thing is, as R.R. Reno poetically points out, “the Daily Office and its path into the mystery of Christ is far older and more reliable than Anglicanism itself.[5]  That is, it’s a practice that began before Thomas Cranmer and the Protestant Reformation.  It’s ancient- something that developed over many years in the undivided Church (the Church of the East and the West).  In particular, fixed prayer finds its beginnings in Judaism and then in Christian monasticism.  It continued to develop in local parish life up through the Middle Ages, and was given its current form in the days of the English Reformation.[6]  This is important: like all Christian doctrine and practice, the DO developed over time, guided by the Holy Spirit, in the life of the Church.

Here’s a quick highlight reel of the DO’s history:

History of the Daily Office

Fixed Prayer in Judaism

"Seven times a day I praise you" the Psalmist says in Ps. 119:164.[7]  Prayerbook commentator Marion Hatchet notes, “By the time of Christ, the synagogue liturgy of the word [the Jewish equivalent to the Office) was conducted on at least some weekdays as well as immediately before the Sabbath meal.”[8]  While scholars debate which, if any, passages from the New Testament gospels evidence this handshake of fixed prayer between Judaism and Christianity, passages like Luke 4:16-30 seem to suggest that Jesus himself was familiar (and utilized?) some type of fixed schedule of prayer and scripture reading.[9]  In other words, organizing one’s day according to fixed prayer times was a part of the Christian faith from its earliest conception in Judaism.

Fixed Prayer in Monasticism

From the third century on, as monastic communities began to develop throughout the Christian world, fixed hours of prayer became more concrete, and more complex.  Seven Offices were observed in the every-day life of a monk: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.[10]  Prayer was the vocation of monks and so, as James White observes, “Monasticism and the Daily Office evolved together, being virtually identified with each other.[11]

Scholars point to one monk in particular, to evidence the connection between monasticism and the DO: Saint Benedict.  One scholar says Benedict “perfected” the DO.[12]   And popular liturgist Phyllis Tickle notes how his Rule, written sometime in the 6th Century, “was to become a kind of master template against which all subsequent observance and structuring of the divine hours was to be tested.”[13]

This is why, even today, as liturgical Christians follow the practice of the DO, they themselves invite the benefits of monasticism’s genius of prayer and work and community.  Want to be a business man monk?  Pray the DO.  Want to include silence and scripture reading into the chaos of motherhood?  Pray the DO.

Fixed Prayer in Medieval Christianity

Medieval Christianity also left its mark on the DO, deepening its rhythms through systematization (a “gift” Medieval Christianity seems to have given all of Western Theology. Thanks?)  In fact, one scholar notes that the DO we have received in the Anglican Prayerbook is, “directly descended from the system of daily services of the Middle Ages known as the Canonical Hours and enshrined in the Breveries of the secular and monastic clergy of the Latin Church.”[14] 

Unfortunately, as even some Roman Catholics observe, during this systematizing process the DO began to grow so complex that, “Daily public worship other than observing the Eucharist became an almost exclusively clerical and monastic tradition for many centuries.”[15]

Fixed Prayer in Reformation Christianity

It wasn’t until the Reformation, with the printing press and the passion of the Reformers to place the scriptures back into the hands of the people, that the DO once again became accessible to the common Christian. 

Massey summarizes,

It was the genius of…Luther and Cranmer, to see the potential advantage to the Church of making the Daily Offices a means of corporate worship for all the faithful…and, in particular, a vehicle for the recovery of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures by all the people of God.[16]

In England, Thomas Cranmer took the historic Seven Offices used by the monastics, combined it with some of the Medieval traditions of prayer, included some Eastern Christian prayers and practices, and compressed those ingredients into two main services of Morning and Evening Prayer.  The result?  Anglicans have prayed some version of Cranmer’s DO ever since.


In telling the story of the DO, it’s important to see that it has, like all aspects of the Church as living organism, developed and matured over time.  None of the historic expressions of the DO should be shunned for this reason alone.  Each in its time contributed to what we have today, and that lends to richness and depth.  The liturgy of the DO in the Book of Common Prayer represents 2,000 years of Church history, theology, and practice.  That is a true gift!

The Theology of the Daily Office

In Anglicanism the DO reflects not only an historical Christian identity, but also an historical Christian theology.  Three defining features of the Anglican theological tradition are put on display in the practice of the DO: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, Via Media, and The Threefold Rule of the Church.[17]

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi means, loosely, the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.  Liturgist Leonel Mitchell explains it this way: “[the] dependence of theology upon worship has been expressed in the Latin maxim lex orandi lex credenda, or more accurately legem credenda lex statuat supplicandi, which means that the way we pray determines the way we believe.[18]  In the Anglican tradition, dogma and practice flow from prayer, even as prayer flows from dogma and practice.  This is precisely why Anglicanism’s primary document is a book of prayer, and not a catechism, or confession of faith.  (Note: We do have a catechism and a list of article of faith, but these are both placed within a book of prayer…in the back).  This feature of Anglicanism cannot be overstated.  Unlike other iterations of the (Continental) Reformation, Anglicanism is NOT summarized in a confessional document.  Nor is it summarized or defined by a Magisterium, as in Roman Catholicism.  Instead, Anglicans believe what they pray.  That daily prayer would be a vow made by every Anglican makes sense for this reason.  The DO is fundamental to Anglicanism’s identity and theology.

Via Media

The second feature on display is summarized by the Latin phrase, Via Media, meaning, “the middle way.”  This is the notion that Anglicanism is both Catholic and Reformed.[19]  Since the DO includes a great deal of scripture reading, it shows its Protestant heritage.  But the DO also affirms the traditions of prayer through Christian history, utilizing forms and prayers that go back to the First Century.  It’s Catholic!  Put simply, in praying the DO, Protestants will feel at home.  There is a lot of scripture reading.  But Catholics will also feel at home (as will Eastern Orthodox Christians) when they sing the Magnificat or pray Saint Chrysostom’s Prayer.

The Threefold Rule

Anglican author Martin Thornton defines the Threefold Rule of Prayer as, “Mass, Office, private prayer.”[20]  These categories provide a helpful understanding for how the prior two Latin phrases work themselves out in Anglicanism.  The Threefold Rule asserts that the DO is important, but only as it finds its place within the Christians canon of prayer: private devotion and corporate worship.  The DO is one of three essential aspects of prayer in Anglicanism. 

In essence, the DO doesn’t stand alone.  It is as strong as the Mass and Private Devotions surrounding it.  The DO fits into this threefold expression of prayer the way the Holy Spirit fits into the Trinity.  It works together with the other kinds of prayer to shape a whole Christian.


The Anglican way of being a Christian is indissolubly linked with daily prayer, as evidenced by its book of prayers, particularly the liturgy of the DO.  This isn’t new, or even 500 years old!  It’s a practice rooted deep in the Church all the way back into the Old Testament.  As such it has developed and deepened over time throughout the undivided Church.  Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also pray a version of the DO (with some similar prayers!). 


I love this aspect of Anglicanism and pray this discussion inspires you (and me) to engage it more.


[1] James White, Protestant Worship, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1989), 103.

[2] Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church : Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David According to the Use of the Episcopal Church, (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 518.

[3] Ibid., 304.

[4] Ibid., 79.

[5] R.R. Reno, The Ruins of the Church, (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2002), 151.

[6] Leonel Mitchell has a good overview of the history of the Office in Leonel Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing, (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1985), 37-39.

[7] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 124.

[8] Marion Hatchett, Commentary On The American Prayer Book, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1980), 89.

[9] Leon Morris, The New Testament and the Jewish Lectionaries, (London: The Tyndale Press, 1964), 14-15. 

In discussing Judaism’s role in forming Christian prayer James White posits what we may conclude at the very least, that while “Our knowledge of the Daily worship of the earliest Christians is meager…Apparently, a variety of Jewish customs of set prayers at set times had a strong appeal.” James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 123.

[10] Marion Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1980), 90.  See also James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 128.

[11] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 128.

[12] Massey Hamilton Shepherd, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950), 1.

[13] Phyllis Tickle, A Brief History of Fixed Hour Prayer,

[14] Ibid.

[15] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 125.

[16] Massey Hamilton Shepherd, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950), 1.

[17] While no single source uses these phrases in precisely this way, see helpful overviews of each in the following.  For Lex Orandi Lex Credendi see W. Taylor Stevenson, “Lex Orandi - Lex Credendi” in The Study of Anglicanism, ed. Stephen Sykes, John Booty, and Jonathan Knight, (Philadelphia: SPCK/Fortress Press, 1988), 187.  Though a debated concept, the study of Anglicanism as a Via Media is best begun with John Henry Newman, The Via Media of The Anglican Church: Illustrated in Lectures, Letter, and Tracts Written Between 1830-1841, (London: Longmans, Green, & Co, 1891).  See in particular John Henry Newman, “Via Media Vol. 1 No. 38in Tracts For the Times,  For a discussion on the Church’s Threefold Rule of prayer see Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency, (London: SPCK, 1959). 

[18] Leonel Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing, (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1985), 1.

[19] For a review of this aspect of Anglican identity that is as entertaining as it is informative, see John R. H. Moorman’s chapter “Golden Mean or Leaden Mediocrity” in John R. H. Moorman, The Anglican Spiritual Tradition, (Illinois: Templegate Publishers, 1983), 54-92.

[20] Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency, (London: SPCK, 1959), 20.

Sunday Nights At The Cathedral Church Of Saint Luke - Downtown Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando
Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

What: Christian Worship In The Anglican Tradition 

If you're in the Orlando area (or nearby), I want to invite you to Sunday Nights At St. Luke's.  Each Sunday night in the heart of downtown Orlando, in a beautiful Gothic-revival style church called The Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, I lead worship for an ancient Christian service called Holy Eucharist.  In songs and prayers, in scripture readings and preaching, we reenact the story of the Bible together: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.  It's a worship experience that involves all five of your senses.  You could say we even taste, smell, and touch the story in the bread and wine of communion.  So from the architecture to the liturgy, as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "Christ plays in ten thousand places."  And it's glorious.  For more on Anglican liturgy and the Bible, HERE'S an article from one of the priests at St. Luke's, and my friend, Justin Holcomb.

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

When: Sunday Nights 6pm

We meet each Sunday night from 6-7:15pm.  In Anglican churches some worshippers come early to kneel and pray silently in the Cathedral before the service begins.  You are welcome to do this!  After worship, we walk to a local pub for food, drinks, and conversation.

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Where: The Cathedral Church Of Saint Luke

Address: 130 North Magnolia Ave Orlando, FL 32801


The Risen Christ, Altar, Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

The Risen Christ, Altar, Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

How: Parking

Parking can be difficult in downtown Orlando.  There are three good places to park when you come to the Cathedral: 1) Metered street parking around the building is free on Sunday nights, 2) The Lanier Parking Lot sits RIGHT BESIDE the Cathedral and parking is FREE there for those attending Saint Luke's, 3) The Regions Bank Parking Garage is another great free place to park.  Pull into the garage, take a ticket, and get a parking voucher from an usher at the Cathedral before you leave.  As you pull out of the garage put both tickets in the machine and that's it!  Get more info on parking HERE.

Who: Leadership

One of the great things about Christian worship in the Anglican tradition is that its liturgical style ensures that the gospel's proclamation isn't based on one pastor's personality or sermon.  Nevertheless, God's church is led by imperfect men and women and we want you to know who they are!  These folks have a steady role with us on Sunday nights.  For a full list of wonderful staff of the Cathedral, go HERE.

Bishop Greg Brewer

Bishop Greg Brewer

Dean Reggie Kidd

Dean Reggie Kidd

Canon Justin Holcomb

Canon Justin Holcomb

Canon Josh Bales

Canon Josh Bales

Every Lament A Love Song: The Pulse Shootings In Orlando, FL

G. Rouault

G. Rouault

What Do We Do With Pain?

In ninth grade English class, my brutally honest professor once asked me, "Josh, do you know why your papers get C's?  Because your Christianity keeps you from writing honestly about the evil in the novels we're reading- and in your life as well."

He was right.  At the time, my understanding of evil was that any kind of worthy faith in God explained it away- if not with denial, then certainly with trivial answers and quickly referenced scripture verses.

A number of years later I spent a summer preaching through the different genres of the psalms for a church in Tennessee.  I didn't know it then, but that summer would become a turning point in my theology, in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with suffering.  That's because I learned that, more than any other kind of Psalm in Israel's hymnbook, there are Psalms of Lament, of sadness, pain, anger, confusion, ambiguity, and discouragement.

So what does it say to us, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, that God's people wrote more sad songs than any other kind in their hymns of "praise?"

Here is the audio link to a sermon on Psalm 13 I gave a few years ago.  The title is a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff's fantastic (and heartbreaking) book "Lament For A Son," where he says that every lament is [ultimately] a love song.

By the way, during that summer of preaching on the psalms, I tried to write a modern day psalm of lament.  I called it "I Need You."  A few years later it was picked up by a band called the Swift and got some radio play.  You can hear the song here.

You can hear the Swift's version of the song here.

Josh Joins The Grace Party on the Steve Brown Etc podcast

Listen to the podcast.

Grace Party

Grace Party

Last week I had the pleasure of joining one of my seminary professors and heroes, Steve Brown, in his studio to record a Steve Brown Etc podcast for the upcoming Grace Party that Steve's Ministry, Key Life, will be throwing later this month in Orlando, FL.  I shared a couple of songs while Charlie and Ruth Jones, and Buddy Greene, also joined the conversation.  It was a lot of fun!

Something that was especially meaningful to me to was sharing "Only The Sinner," a song that was inspired by Steve's teaching about God's grace.  You can hear the podcast here or click on the image above.

Last year I wrote a guest blog for Key Life about "Only The Sinner" and you can read the story and listen to the song here.

If you're in Orlando the weekend of May 20th, please join us at Willow Creek Church for Key Life's Grace Party.  It's going to be a blast.  Details here.

A Fall Update From Josh

  Mindy and I have had such a full summer and fall, and I wanted to catch you up on the highlights.  

Mindy! A photo posted by @joshbalesmusic on

We are expecting a baby girl in January! Mindy suspects good songs will come from me rocking our new daughter to sleep this January, in the middle of the night...We are so excited.

And we had a wonderful summer of music and counseling.

In July, for the 10th year in a row, I played the Summit Ministries conference in Tennessee- joining a few hundred folks in ten nights of 35 minute liturgy and hymn sessions! It was a blast and is an event I look forward to each year.

  July was also the month we released The Birds Their Carols Raise, a new album of hymns.  The process of making this album on my own was so challenging and exhilarating that I have already begun to dream about a second hymns album.  I'll keep you posted on that.  

The months of September- November are always full of opportunities to share music and this year has been no different.  Over the past few weeks I've played the songs of The Birds Their Carols Raise and Count The Stars for audiences at Christ Church Intown in Jacksonville, FL, Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Saint Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Titusville, FL, Wycliffe Bible Translators in Franklin, NC, Orangewood Christian School in Maitland, FL, Clergy Conference for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida in Oviedo, FL.  I never grow tired of the excitement and energy that comes from playing live music in a room full of people!

"Signs amid the rubble..." Beauty in the midst of business today at the office. @ccslorlando

A photo posted by @joshbalesmusic on

  Also in September I accepted a full time position as Canon Missioner at the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke in downtown Orlando.  

  My role at Saint Luke's involves heading up our weekly 6pm Eucharist (pictured above) along with other pastoral duties.  It's also a role that encourages me to continue writing, recording, and touring, for which I am very grateful. If you're ever in Orlando for the weekend please come see us.  More information about the service can be found here.    

In addition to music and pastoral ministry, Mindy and I have continued to see clients at Journeys Counseling Center in Orlando.  This remains a treasured part of our lives and vocations.

Just a few days away... Can't wait for you to hear it. #christmasmusic

A photo posted by @joshbalesmusic on

It's that time of year (almost!). As we round the corner of November we will celebrate the first anniversary of The Holly & The Ivy, my Christmas album! You can stream this album online or download it at iTunes/Bandcamp.

Y'all, thanks so much for supporting my music!  I hope to see you at an event this Winter or Spring.  And please continue to write and say hello. I love hearing from you and do my best to respond to each note. JB

On The Cross of Christ

Tertullian, 2nd CenturyAt every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign.


Delivered on the Second Sunday of Lent 2015 at the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke in Orlando Florida.

Ephraim the Syrian, 4th Century With the sign of the living cross, seal all thy doings, my son. Go not forth from the door of thy house till thou hast signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in thy house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto thee as a wall, in the forefront of all thy doings. And teach this to thy children, that heedfully they be conformed to it.

Athanasius (from his Life of Saint Anthony), 4th Century But we by the mention of Christ crucified put all demons to flight, whom you fear as if they were gods. Where the sign of the Cross is, magic is weak and witchcraft has no strength.

Cyril Of Jerusalem, 4th Century Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour thy Benefactor.

John Chrysostom, 4th-5th Century When therefore thou signest thyself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When thou signest thyself, fill thy forehead with all courage, make thy soul free.

Collect for Holy Cross Day from the Book of Common PrayerAlmighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.