“Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud;
and he shall hear my voice.” -Psalm 55:17
Faith’s Lenten Vespers service included a representation of the ancient spiritual practice known as the Liturgy of the Hours. As disciples of Christ we are called to practice basic spiritual disciplines. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, called these spiritual practices Means of Grace. Engaging in spiritual practices might even be thought of as keeping an appointment with God.
Liturgy of the Hours is a spiritual practice also known as the Daily Office, the Divine Office, Praying the Hours or Fixed-Hour Prayers. No matter what name is used to describe this spiritual practice, the purpose of this spiritual discipline is to consecrate time, all time, as God’s time. Below is additional information about this spiritual practice that you may want to consider exploring in your personal devotion time.
Liturgy of the Hours is rooted in the Jewish tradition of fixed daily prayer and has been adapted by Christians over the centuries. Monastics in the Benedictine tradition are largely responsible for integrating the Daily Office into Christian daily life. Traditionally, the Daily Office consisted of praying seven times a day starting with Vespers at sunset.
The prayer times practiced by Benedictines are:
- Night prayers known as Vigils
- Waking up prayers, Lauds
- Prayers for beginning work, Prime
- Giving-thanks prayers in mid-morning, Terce
- Noon-day prayer of commitment, Sext
- Mid-afternoon prayer, None
- Evening prayer of stillness, Vespers
- Going to sleep prayer of trust, Compline
Many of us will look at the list and feel overwhelmed. But the beauty of this spiritual practice is that we can begin where we are. Begin by identifying one fixed time of prayer during your day, perhaps morning. Then add one more prayer time, perhaps in the middle of the day as a reminder that time is a gift made for God, work, and relationships with God and others. This intentional time of prayer doesn’t need to be long. It can simply be a minute or two to stop and turn to God in the midst of your day.
Fixed-hour prayers help us to develop regular and consistent patterns of tending to God throughout the day. Praying in these fixed hours is a way of honoring an intentional moment with God. You may want to consider setting a timer to remind you of your intention to pray. As we make time to stop and pray throughout our busy days, prayer and time with God becomes a priority in our lives. We may even begin to realize that God is with us when the busy demands of our daily lives cause us to feel frantic and overwhelmed. Praying fixed hours helps us to turn our hearts to God throughout our day and begin to cultivate an awareness of God’s presence in all time and all things.
Prayers for fixed hours can be spontaneous or liturgical. We can pray scripture, memorized prayers, or simply pray what is on our hearts. Suggestions include: The Lord’s Prayer, praying the Psalms, the Shema or Greatest Commandment, singing a hymn, intercessory prayer for family, friends, church, and community, praying a breath prayer or walking a pocket-sized labyrinth with your finger. The Upper Room magazine Devozine offers some suggestions and resources for praying the Liturgy of the Hours at http://devozine.upperroom.org/spiritual-practices/the-liturgy-of-the-hours/
Remember that this practice is not so much about praying in a certain way as it is about making intentional time in your day to spend in God’s presence a priority for your daily living. May God bless you as you seek to draw closer to Christ throughout your day!
Kathy Schmucker, Spiritual Formation Director, Faith United Methodist Church