Morning Prayer (Anglican)

Morning Prayer (Anglican)

Morning Prayer (also Mattins or Matins), is one of the two main Daily Offices in the churches of the Anglican Communion, prescribed in the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer and other Anglican liturgical texts. Like Evening Prayer (and in contrast to the Eucharist), it may be led by a layperson and is recited by some Anglicans daily in private (clergy in many Anglican jurisdictions are required to do so).



In its classic form, in the 1662 version of the Prayer Book, the Morning Prayer is essentially unchanged from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Second Prayer Book of Edward VI, published in 1552. It draws on the monastic offices of Matins, Lauds and Prime, beginning with opening versicles and responses, continuing with the invitatory "Venite" (Psalm 95), the "Te Deum" and "Benedictus", interspersed with Bible readings, as well as recitation of the Apostles’ Creed, and ending with closing versicles adapted from the Breviary. The Prayer Book lectionary provides for a virtually complete reading of the Bible in the course of a year.

The usual practice in medieval parish worship was for the congregation to attend the office of Matins, followed by the Latin Mass according to the Roman Rite, followed by the Litany of the Saints, sung in procession. Following the Reformation, the usual Sunday Service followed a similar pattern, but with the English Litany said between Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. On Sundays when there was no celebration of Communion (i.e. most of them), only the ante-Communion would be said. Even so — and taking into account the legal requirement to read one from the specified set of printed Homilies — the post-Reformation service lasted more than twice as long as its pre-Reformation equivalent. Historically, Morning Prayer was the main Sunday morning service on most Sundays in all Anglican parishes, with Holy Communion being celebrated after Morning or Evening Prayer (typically once a month, on the first Sunday). In the twentieth century, Holy Communion became the main Sunday morning service once or twice per month. With the revival of the Eucharist as the principal Sunday service during the second half of the twentieth century, Morning Prayer has been the principal Sunday service less frequently.

Origins of liturgical shape

The Breviary in its original monastic context contemplated recitation by two alternating groups of monks or nuns. This evolved into a recitation between parson and clerk on behalf of the congregation; in the 19th century the role of the clerk was increasingly given over to the whole congregation and choirs and congregations began singing the psalms and canticles to a musical setting known as Anglican chant. With the development of the Oxford Movement and increasing liturgicalism among high church-inclined clergy and parishes, Anglican chant was replaced by plainchant in some Anglo-Catholic constituencies, where Morning Prayer on Sundays became a devotional exercise prior to the celebration of the eucharist.

The daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer, canonically required of Anglican clergy, has sustained the spiritual life of Anglican communities. Nicholas Ferrar’s 17th century religious community at Little Gidding, commemorated in T.S. Eliot’s eponymous poem, required daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer. In the 18th century, the daily office of Morning and Evening Prayer as set out in the Book of Common Prayer was the essence of John and Charles Wesley's "method", which also included scriptural study, fasting and regular reception of Holy Communion. The same "method" also informed the 19th-century revival of monastic life within the Anglican Church.


Traditional prayer books

In classical Anglican prayer books (such as the 1662 English, 1959 Canadian and 1928 American editions), the rite consists of the following elements:

  • One or more sentences of scripture, traditionally carrying a penitential theme.
  • An exhortation urging the worshippers to repentance and also expressing the nature of worship.
  • A general confession.
  • A lengthy absolution by the priest detailing the conditions for forgiveness.
  • The first Lord's Prayer.
  • Preces, a series of verses and responses including the Gloria Patri.
  • The Venite or invitatory psalm (Psalm 95). In some prayer books this psalm may be shortened or provided with seasonal antiphons; it concludes with the Gloria Patri.
  • A portion of the psalter, i.e. one or more prose psalms, concluding with the Gloria Patri.
  • A lesson (reading) from the Old Testament.
  • The Te Deum Laudamus, Benedicite or other canticle.
  • A lesson from the New Testament.
  • The Benedictus, Jubilate or other canticle.
  • The Apostles' Creed.
  • The salutation and response.
  • The Kyrie.
  • The Lord's Prayer.
  • Suffrages and responses, including, in the English prayer book, "O Lord, save the Queen, And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee" altered in the American prayer book to "O Lord save the state" and in Canada with the response truncated to "And evermore mightily defend us."
  • The Collect of the Day, and in the collect for Advent and Lent in those seasons.
  • The Collect for Peace and the Collect for Grace.
  • An anthem following the third collect (in Advent and Lent, the fourth) ("In quires and places where they sing, here followeth the anthem," in the well-known phraseology of the 1662 edition of the English prayer book).
  • The State Prayers.
  • The Prayer of St. Chrysostom.
  • The Grace.

On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays Morning Prayer was to be followed by the Litany, though in practice it was usually followed by a collection, hymn, sermon, more prayers and a final hymn on Sundays.

Other than in some cathedrals and college chapels, usually only one psalm is said or sung. A sermon or homily may be preached at the end on Sundays or other special occasions, such as important feast days, but does not form a set part of the liturgy. However, when Mattins has been the principal Sunday morning service, the sermon has been of central importance and indeed in Samuel Pepys's Diary, documenting domestic habits of the 1660s in the London professional class and nobility, the reference is to going to hear a particular preacher.

Common Worship

Common Worship: Daily Prayer offers a contemporary form of the liturgy. After the opening versicle, a hymn, prayer, and/or canticle are said or sung. A prayer is followed by psalms, canticles, and readings. The service concludes with intercessions, the collect, and the Lord's Prayer. Provision is also made for the continued use of the rite found in the Alternative Service Book. This rite is largely a contemporary rendering of the Prayer Book rite. The structure is:


  • an opening versicle, 'O Lord open our lips', its response, and a second seasonally appropriate versicle and response.

One or more of the following:

  • a prayer of thanksgiving, varying according to season and ending with “Blessed be God for ever.”
  • a suitable hymn
  • an opening canticle
  • an opening prayer, if desired

One of the following may replace the Preparation:

  • a Form of Penitence
  • The Acclamation of Christ at the Dawning of the Day. This includes provision for the Invitatory--Psalm 95 or verses from it--that may be used with antiphons.

The Word of God:

  • psalmody, each with an optional antiphon and psalm prayer.
  • an Old Testament canticle
  • provision is given for a "Psalm of Praise" to be said after the canticle, or if desired, before it. The psalms suggested for this purpose are Psalm 117 on Sunday, Psalm 146 on Monday, half of Psalm 147 on Tuesday, the other half on Wednesday, Psalm 148 on Thursday, Psalm 149 on Friday and Psalm 150 on Saturday.
  • reading(s) from Holy Scripture
  • a Responsory. This varies according to the season, and in ordinary time, the same is used as the Responsory in Evening Prayer.
  • the Benedictus as the Gospel Canticle, preceded and concluded with optional antiphons specific for each day, with ferial, festal and seasonal variations. Another canticle may replace the Benedictus if desired.


  • intercessions and, especially in the evening, thanksgivings
  • the Collect of the day, or the prayer which is printed in the service, or another prayer or collect.
  • the Lord’s Prayer, preceded by an optional seasonally-appropriate introduction.


  • on Sundays and feasts outside of Lent the Te Deum Laudamus (or other canticle) may be used.
  • a blessing or the Grace
  • a concluding response, if desired
  • the Peace may replace or follow the Conclusion

American Episcopal Church

In the Episcopal Church, like Evening Prayer and the Eucharist, Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer (1979) is provided in two forms. Both are substantially similar, but one retains some concessions to traditional Elizabethan "Prayer Book" language.

After a sentence of scripture a General Confession is made. A priest, if present, absolves the people. Then follows the opening versicle, an antiphon and the Venite or another psalm or canticle. The appointed psalms are then said or sung, one or two lessons are read, each with a canticle. The Apostles' Creed and Lord's Prayer follow, then the suffrages, and various prayers. The service concludes with the grace.

Book of Alternative Services

The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada provides a simple form for Morning Prayer. The service may begin with the Penitential Rite or proceed directly to the preces. The Venite is said or sung, followed by additional psalms, one to three readings and one or more canticles. The Apostle's Creed or the Summary of the Law is said before the intercessions. The service concludes with the Lord's Prayer and dismissal.


In Morning Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer, the first canticle of Mattins is always the Venite, Psalm 95 ("O come let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation..."). The Te Deum — not, strictly speaking, a canticle as such — ("We praise thee O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord: all the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting...") usually follows, but may be replaced by the Benedicite, particularly in Lent. The Benedictus ("Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people: and hath raised up a might salvation for us, in the house of his servant David...") may be replaced with the Jubilate (Psalm 100, "O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a psalm..."), Salvator Mundi ("O Saviour of the world who by thy cross and precious blood hath redeemed us, save us and help us we humbly beseech thee O Lord: thou didst save thy disciples when ready to perish; save us and help us we humbly beseech thee..."), Surge illuminare ("Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: for behold, gross darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people..."), Benedicite omnia opera ("O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord...") or other canticles as the liturgical year proceeds.


See above regarding Anglican chant, used for psalms and canticles.

Throughout post-Reformation English history significant events in national life have been commemorated with specially commissioned church services. Traditionally these have been services of Morning Prayer and thus the famous Te Deums and Jubilates of Purcell, Handel and others. Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate (as with many other settings of the Mattins canticles, though the Te Deum is not strictly speaking a canticle), is of course a festal setting of Morning Prayer.

"In quires and places where they sing, here followeth the anthem," it says after the Third Collect in the 1662 Prayer Book, and the vast majority of church anthems composed prior to the latter part of the 20th century were contemplated as complying with that rubric. These anthems were also sung, from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, in British Nonconformist churches.

As a principal Sunday church service Morning Prayer includes several congregational hymns.

See also

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