My wife and I, many years ago now, began using The Treasury of Daily Prayer at the start of each day. Well, almost. I mean, there is coffee first. After a jolt of java, we THEN open the Treasury. And what an apt name: The thing is a veritable treasure chest of God’s Word (all the readings according to Lutheran Service Book’s daily lectionary printed out in full, and thus the Word of God fills the bulk of the book), but with the addition of hymns, writings and prayers from every period of the church’s history.
How amazing it is to use. We simply turn to the correct day. The Treasury does have the quirk of following the Church Year from Ash Wednesday through Trinity Sunday, and the calendar year (as in July 15) for the remainder. How do we use it? Like this, and I’ll use July 15 as the example (* denotes portions from the Small Catechism’s Morning Prayers outline):
- *Invocation (“In the name of the Father …”)
- Psalm verses (today, 33:13–22). My wife and I sing back and forth, every other verse, and then join in the Gloria Patri.
- Today’s OT reading: Judges 15:1–16:3 (Uh-oh! Samson hooks up with his downfall, Delilah).
- Today’s NT reading: Galatians 3:23–4:11 (Joys abounding; baptized into Christ, heirs; Spirit crying, “Abba Father!”).
- We read these passages, alternating by paragraphs, and after each, I say, “O Lord, have mercy on us,” to which she responds, “Thanks be to God!”
- Then on to the writing from the church’s history. Today we have an interesting little bit from Martin Luther from his great Galatians commentary, tracking a bit with the second reading. Most days the writing ends up being connected in some way to the readings, and thus offers some of the church’s 2000 years of reflected wisdom on the Word of God
- *Next up is a hymn verse (or, occasionally, two). We always sing these; sometimes we have to run to our hymnal to figure out a tune if it’s not familiar, but that’s rare.
- Then a Prayer of the Day, which is often related to the reading.
- *Then we recite together the Apostles’ Creed and the Our Father.
- We join in the prayer for whatever day of the week we’re on (pp. 1310–1313). We also add some prayers of our own.
- *We close with the Morning Prayer from the catechism and the Benedicamus: “Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.”
All this from start to finish takes about 15 minutes. We add more features during Lent (a walk through the catechism) and on festivals of the saints and such. But what I’ve listed out is the way it works the bulk of the time. After years of trying (and failing) to establish a daily devotional time, this has been a game-changer. I think it’s a combination of its ease of use and its depth of approach that make it so simple and compelling.
Enter the great exile
And then came COVID-19. Ugh. Who could have imagined the horror of it? I’m not referring so much to the terrible disease, but to the shuttering of churches and the isolation of the stay-at-home orders (I live in Illinois). Thanks be to God for things like Facebook and livestreaming. Through them the Word continued to go out, and we had some kind of connection to our pastors and churches. But who did not have the feeling of being cut off and adrift as the days mounted? The people of God literally receive God’s life from our coming together around the gifts of Christ. And the horror grew as we entered our most holy days, and we still were not able to come together. May we never have another Easter like that again!
But through the turmoil of that time, something came alive to me that I’d known in theory for a long time. You never pray alone. What had Luther told Peter the Barber? “Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain” (Treasury writing for January 4). Yes, it hit me. Yes. Exactly what Luther observed there — it’s true.
I may be physically distant from my church family, but when Cindi and I sit at the table and open the Treasury and read and pray the Word and sing — well, suddenly we are not alone. Distances dissolve. The same words that nourish us are nourishing many of our sisters and brothers who faithfully pray the Daily Lectionary or use Treasury or its app version, PrayNow. And whenever we gather in prayer before the throne of the Lamb, that sense of not being alone grows. We stand with Jesus, our Liturgist, who presents our prayers, inside us His Spirit interceding with His groans too deep for words as He does in all believers (Rom. 8:26). And wherever Jesus is, where His Spirit is, there is His church, His saints — not just some of us, but the whole family of the redeemed. Unseen, but not imagined. Truly together. And in the words of the church’s writings and hymns and prayers: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” Yes, it is just like Psalm 145:4 depicts it.
Our Treasury of Daily Prayer was like a COVID-19 lifeline to the Word of God. But not only to the Scripture; it was also a lifeline to the assembly of those who have believed, prayed and meditated upon and sung that Word. It was a lifeline to the church.
What joy to read St. John Chrysostom’s Easter homily: “Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave” (Treasury, 185). What delight to mark Ascensiontide with the Formula of Concord’s sturdy words about Christ at the right hand of the Father and what that means for us: “‘God’s right hand’ is no set place in heaven … It is nothing other than God’s almighty power, which fills heaven and earth” (Treasury, 304). What comfort to sing on Pentecost together Luther’s sturdy hymn: “Come, holy Fire, comfort true” (Treasury, 330).
The more we have used our Treasury in these days, the deeper has grown our sense of connection with one another in the Body of Christ. I doubt we’ll be using anything else for our daily devotions for the rest of our lives. It really is that rich and inexhaustible.
If you’ve not given it a whirl, by all means, I encourage you to check it out. The app is particularly well done and inexpensive. Let me know if you have found it of help in your life of prayer and daily Bible reading.