For those services where the Lord's Supper is not celebrated, especially at Midweek services, St. John prays historic prayer offices of the church as they are contained in Lutheran Service Book.
The Order of Service called Matins follows the ancient order of morning prayer dating back to as early as 567 AD. It has been available to English-speaking Lutherans for almost a century. The service begins with the words, "O Lord, open my lips," (Psalm 51:5). After a night of silence, the first words from the lips of Christians were this prayer for God's presence. This verse reminds and acknowledges the gracious fact that even worship is a work of God in us!
During Matins, there is time to reflect and meditate on the readings. There is a sermon on the Scripture readings. However, the Lord's Supper is not given at this service. This is a service of the Word only. One distinctive feature of this service is the singing of the Te Deum Laudamus, written in 387 AD. Luther said, in 1538, that the Te Deum is "a fine symbol or creed composed in the form of a chant, not only for the purpose of confessing the true faith but also for praising and thanking God." Alternatively, sometimes the Benedictus, the song of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), is sung. This is the song sung at the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord. The service of Matins has so much to offer to us as we hear His Word and respond with prayer and praise. The biblical content of Matins cannot be matched in providing a worthy service of the Word for God's people!
Vespers is the sunset evening service of the Word. It begins with the versicles, responses, and the Gloria Patri (Glory to the Father...). This encourages a meditative and repentant tone. It looks backward in thankfulness for the mercies of the day and prays for God's protections against all foes, and the gift of peace which this world cannot give. The reading of one or more lessons is a central feature of Vespers. After each reading, the traditional response, "O Lord, have mercy on us," is spoken. This is how we conclude the reading of Scripture. It voices our constant need for mercy and our thankfulness that in God's Word, as nowhere else, we are assured of it. Furthermore, the canticle for Vespers is the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). This song is one of the most magnificent statements of faith in all the Scriptures! It is the song of the faithful Church as she waits quietly for the fulfillment of the word of promise. Vespers gives us the opportunity to reflect on God's grace, mercy, and peace. This is usually the Wednesday midweek service for Advent and Lent.
Compline is a devotional service at the end of the day rather than a preaching service. The ending of the day also brings to mind the ending of life. The familiar phrase "If I should die before I wake" has several echoes in this service. The service begins with a brief bedtime prayer: "The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last." Then, we continue with Psalm 92:1-2, which emphasizes the conclusion of the day in God's gracious presence. The confession of sins and a declaration of grace are central features of Compline. Because of Compline's emphasis on preparation for sleep, there are no lengthy Scripture readings in the service. Instead, besides the Psalmody, only a brief reading is included. The Responsory comes from Psalm 31:5 with New Testament echoes from the lips of Jesus (Luke 23:46) and the first martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:59): "Into your hands, I commend my spirit." Also, the traditional canticle for Compline is the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon's song from Luke 2:29-32). It recalls preparation, forgiveness, praise, and the anticipation of heaven. Finally, we conclude with the ancient prayer, "Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace," and with a trinitarian blessing.