By Amanda Markel
Many individuals and families struggle with having a devotional time in the home. What should this time look like? What do you actually need to do? What resources are available — and not just available, but theologically sound — for you to use?
A few years ago, Concordia Publishing House came out with a book that takes all of the guesswork out of spending time in the Word. It’s called the Treasury of Daily Prayer, and it’s a wonderful resource for use in the home, for people of all ages and from all walks of life. And the best part is, you don’t have to worry about weeding out doctrinally inappropriate materials and you don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel and come up with something new!
Now, this book is pretty hefty and can be a bit intimidating at first, but don’t worry. We’re here to help.
The bulk of the Treasury consists of daily readings. While most of these are based on calendar date, others will be specific to the season — such as Lent and Advent. Each day offers provides a Psalm, an Old Testament Reading, a New Testament Reading, a writing from a church father, a hymn verse, a Prayer of the Day, and a suggested reading from the Book of Concord. (Note: The Book of Concord readings are the only ones not contained within the Treasury, but don’t worry. Those are available online if you don’t yet have your own copy.)
In addition to all of that, there are also suggestions for additional Psalms, and, during the season of Lent, special readings dedicated to catechesis.
These daily readings are a great place to start. Simply go to today’s date and dive in. I have used abridged sections when going through the Treasury with small children, and have used the full set of readings when going through it by myself.
If you’re looking for an even more in-depth devotional and prayer time, however, the Treasury has further options for you.
Orders of Prayer
The center of the book contains orders of prayer: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Daily Prayer for morning, noon, early evening, and the close of the day, Responsive Prayers I and II, and the Litany. There are even special seasonal invitatories, antiphons, and responsories for use with Matins and Vespers! These allow you to pray through the ancient prayer offices just as Christians have done for centuries.
The back of the book contains additional prayers, prayers for the baptismal life, the Psalter and the Small Catechism. The rites for Confession and Absolution, as well as Preparation for the Lord’s Supper are also included, which makes this a great book to use to examine yourself before attending the Sacrament of the Altar.
Using the Treasury
While this book may be intimidating in its size and breadth, there’s really no wrong way to use it. Whether you spend 15 minutes a day simply going through part of the prescribed readings, or you devote an hour or more on the full readings and prayer office, it is a great tool for reading through large portions of Scripture, familiarizing yourself with the writings of the Church Fathers (something I think most of us should try to do!) and living through the church year. You’ll celebrate not only familiar feasts and festivals, but also lesser-known commemorations through the year, where you will have the opportunity to read biographies of different saints and learn about all of our holy days.
It’s also beneficial for use day in and day out, year after year! If you don’t go through all of the readings each day you can focus one year on the Old Testament readings, then the next year, the New Testament. This was one way I’ve used the Treasury with my children when they were younger, so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed with all of the readings at once. And just as our churches go through the one or three year lectionaries, where we hear the same readings from Scripture on a regular basis, it is beneficial for us to do the same at home, to keep reading them — learning what they mean more each time we go through them.
We know the benefits of regularly being in the Word, praying and studying the wise words of the Church Fathers who have come before us. It can be challenging to find all of the appropriate materials and juggle several books to do so. But the Treasury of Daily Prayer takes away any excuse we might have not to do these things, providing a theologically appropriate tool for study that doesn’t contain any of the “fluff” that is so often found in modern devotional materials!
(Editor’s Note: Concordia Publishing House also offers this resource as an app for your smart phone. It’s not free, but it’s got everything you love about the Treasury without the bulk.)