New Every Morning

Kyle Norman
For years I struggled with my morning routine. Logically, I knew that I was supposed to wake up each morning feeling refreshed and renewed, ready to face a day of ministry. This, however, always seemed to elude me. Every morning my alarm sounded all too aggressively. As I fumbled out of bed making my way towards the coffee machine, “rested” was never the word I would use to describe myself. Zombie-like, sluggish, irritable would be more like it. With coffee in hand, I would sit over my frozen waffles, eyes barely open, mustering no more than grunts and groans for a morning conversation. This went on for years.
Eventually, I began to question whether this was how the Lord wanted me to rise each morning. I began to pay attention to how scripture talks about our spiritual disposition in the morning hours of the day. Each morning, scripture holds, we are called to a deep awakening to God’s new mercies. Each morning holds before us a new day where we are invited to be satisfied by the Lord’s steadfast love. Furthermore, if Psalm 30 boldly proclaims that “joy comes with the morning”, why was this never the reality in which I rose from my bed each day? More to the point, was there anything I could do that would change my experience of those gloomy morning hours?
The answer I found was quite simple: The Liturgy of Morning Prayer. By “Morning Prayer”, I do not simply mean the act of praying in the morning. I always told myself that I prayed each morning, although to be honest, my utterances of “God, why does it have to be morning?” were probably not that prayerful. Rather, Morning Prayer refers to an act in which we intentionally participate in the specific, liturgical, prayers of the wider Church. Morning Prayer is governed by a specific form, including specific readings of scripture, and an order to one’s thanksgivings and petitions. This may seem overly structured at first, but the form is important because it brings with it the recognition of community. To pray via a liturgy is to pray with the knowledge that one’s voice is but one of many. I know that others, throughout the world, are reading those same readings and saying the same petitions. To use Scot McKnight’s phase, I pray “with the Church.”
When I began to sit in my home office, prayer book in hand, and go through the small but powerful liturgy of the Morning Prayer, I found my energy and enthusiasm for mornings begin to shift. Mornings were no longer that which I pushed away for as long as possible. Instead, they opened to me another day of delighting in the mercy and love of God – an experience I was happy to engage in. Morning by morning I began to anticipate the opportunity to enter this time of deep connection with the Lord. Although I may have only been awake for barely thirty minutes, this time settled me, grounded me. The liturgical office of Morning Prayer helps me embrace the new day (and thus the world around me) in a kingdom-oriented manner. This kingdom orientation would be then carried with me. Morning Prayer, in effect, established a way to walk with Jesus during the remaining hours of my day.
The liturgy of Morning Prayer roots us in community. The English poet and priest, John Donne, once penned that “No man [sic] is an island, entire unto itself; every man [sic] is piece of the continent.” Donne highlights an important reality for our lives; we exist amid a myriad of relationships. We are created to be a people, and our Christian lives are to be lived within the Body of Christ. Yes, I can point to myself and say, “I am a Christian”, or ”I am an Anglican”. These statements may be true in some respects, but it would be more appropriate to say, “I belong to the body of Christ”, or “I belong to the Anglican community”. My faith is not an isolated island in which I reside alone; it is a part of a wider body. Shouldn’t then my morning prayers be reflective of that wider body?
I think we sometimes forget this truth. In a “me-first” society it becomes easy to centre our faith solely within ourselves. The problem with this is that this can create an uneasy reality for us. As we try to mediate an individual spiritual life (as opposed to a common spiritual life), we may find ourselves facing questions we feel ill equipped to answer; questions like: “Why am I never experiencing the presence of Jesus in the morning?” or “How come my morning prayers don’t have vibrancy to them?”
What if living our faith-lives is not just about you or me? What if God created you not to be a Christian person, but to part of a Christian people? Does this not change how we view ourselves, our spiritual heritage, and the spiritual habits we engage in? Life with God means life in the community of faith. Within my own tradition, I imagine that it was for specific reason that Thomas Cranmer named his liturgical opus ‘The Book of Common Prayer.’ Our spiritual lives are to be mediated through participation in a joint –common – spiritual life. Although I may sit alone in my office as I pray the liturgy, this does not discount the deeper reality at work. In Morning Prayer, I participate in the prayers of the Church, and I add my voice to the company of the faithful. I do not say Morning Prayer; we say Morning Prayer together. This is precisely why the Anglican liturgy of make use of corporate language: “O Lord open our lips”, we begin.
If you desire to enter each new morning in a more intentional, joy-filled, or spiritually satisfying way, I encourage you to take up the discipline of Morning Prayer. Instead of relying on extemporaneous utterances, which can be far too influenced by our levels of tiredness, find a structured liturgy that you can participate in each morning. Consider picking up The Book of Common Prayer, Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer, or Phyllis Tickle’s Liturgy of the Hours. There are a myriad of guides out there. The point is this: lend your voice to the prayer of the Church, by allowing the language of the Church to form your prayers. In doing so, you may find that more than your morning routine begins to be transformed.

Donne, John. 1999. Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. Toronto: Vintage Spiritual Classics.
McKnight, Scot. 2006. Praying with the Church. Brewster: Paraclete Press

Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of Christian community, and the role of spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found at