My first fulltime job was with a large church in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. I spent almost eight years serving this congregation as their youth minister. When I left, we had multiple fulltime ministers on staff and many part-time admin staff. We had weekly minister meetings and staff devotionals. There was a wall with calendars so all of our many schedules could be posted, as well as a sign-out board used to let each other know where we were and what we were doing. While working at this large church, there was a built-in level of accountability from which flowed a natural daily schedule.
Then I moved to my current ministry location in Stamford, Texas. A small West Texas community and congregation. I am the only fulltime staff member. I would like to be able to say that, with my move to a new location, my built-in schedule came with me. But it didn’t. Too many times, early in my ministry, I would look up from my computer to realize I had “lost” time on things like social media. Since there is no sign-out board, it became easy to come into the office “a few minutes” late. I came to realize this time was adding up. It was more than just wasted time; it was wasted ministry.
This ministry transition and loss of schedule, along with other hurdles, took a toll on my spiritual growth. After a few months I realized it had been weeks since I had spent any quality time in prayer. I had been praying in our worship services and at night with my children, but my daily time in prayer had somehow gone the way of my schedule. I was feeling the loss of both.
So I googled, “I need help with prayer.” Seriously. I was desperate.
One of the first results was a link to a prayer book. Growing up in the Churches of Christ, I had never used or seen a prayer book. When I downloaded it, it seemed to simply be groupings of Scripture. But like I said, I was desperate. It was a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayers. I decided to give it a try. To say that this simple book changed my life is an understatement. I discovered two things during that month: prayer books offer me words to God when I have none, and I need a schedule to survive spiritually.
What I have discovered is that praying the daily offices meets both of these spiritual needs. Some may need to ask, “What does it mean to pray the daily offices?” When I first started, I asked that very question. The daily offices are the marked times of the day for regular fixed prayer. For some, it is simply morning and evening. Others pray three times a day. There are many monastic groups that pray seven times a day. 
I started off simply praying morning and evening prayers. I finally had the beginnings of a schedule. Later, I began to add different “hours” into my routine.  I began to set alarms on my phone to remind me to pray the different offices. There was even a church bell ringtone I used to call me to prayer. I now had an even better schedule to follow—one that kept me in continual communication with God. At first, I felt that spending this much time in prayer might get in the way of my other ministry responsibilities. However, I quickly discovered that, not only did praying the offices not interfere with my ministry, it actually made me more efficient. Praying on a regular schedule kept me from wasting as much time on social media and other acts of procrastination. I knew I had to schedule things like visitation and study between my times of prayer. I now had a schedule and a renewed prayer life. Perhaps that is why daily prayer is often referred to as opus Dei, the work of God.
While I have used many prayer books over the years, let me suggest a few you might consider using if you are looking to create a new schedule in your life. The first prayer book I mentioned is Take Our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book. This book is a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayer. There is a second volume that focuses on the Holy Days of the Christian calendar. When I chose to pray the traditional seven offices of prayer, I used Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours and The Night Offices. This four-volume set follows the seasons of the Christian calendar. A third prayer book I have found helpful is Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. This single volume provides morning, afternoon, and evening prayers along with prayers for special occasions. Finally, the most recent prayer book I have used is Just Prayer: A Book of Hours for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers. This single volume is a four-week cycle of morning and evening prayers dedicated, as the name suggests, to peacemaking and social justice.
I wish I could say that prayer and keeping a schedule now come naturally. They do not. While I have become accustomed to praying the offices, I have found that, if I am not careful, I can simply turn off the alarm and return to a hectic, unscheduled life. But when I do, I inevitably find I again lose my words, and my prayer life—as well as my whole ministry life—struggles. I am thankful I have grown up in a tradition where we have been known as people of the Book. I am also thankful I have discovered other books from other traditions that draw me closer to God and order my life for God’s service.
 For more on fixed hour prayer, read the introduction in Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. It can also be found online at: http://www.phyllistickle.com/fixed-hour-prayer.
 The offices as I have come to pray them are as follows: Matins, prayed at midnight; Lauds, prayed at about 3:00 a.m.; Terce, prayed about 9:00 a.m.; Sext, prayed at noon; None, prayed in the afternoon; Vespers, prayed about 6:00 p.m.; and Compline, prayed before bedtime.
Editor’s Note: Wes Horn will be participating in the Ministering in the Small Church track at ACU Summit, Sept. 17-20, 2017.