“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”
-Psalm 119:164 TNIV
The Divine Offices or Liturgy of the Hours is a form of fixed-hour prayer, which simply means that there are fixed times set aside each day to pray. The practice goes all the way back to the time of the Old Testament and the nation of Israel as the verse above illustrates. I became familiar with fixed-hour prayer a few years back while I was exploring different types of spiritual disciplines. Since that time I have used it as a tool at conferences, with small groups, and with students that I work with. I don’t know about you, but I need something other than my memory or emotions to prompt me to pray, and committing to “pray the hours” has been a great way of staying connected to God consistently throughout my day. I don’t pray the hours every day, but return to it for days at a time during different seasons of my life (that seems to keep it fresh and works best for me). If you are interested in stretching yourself spiritually, I would recommend trying out praying the hours.
What you will need:
-A prayer book of some sort. I use The Divine Hours which was compiled by Phyllis Tickle (see below). Tickle has books available for different parts of the year, and even shorter books to use during Easter and Christmas. If you are looking for something that is easy to pack around, she has a book available that contains a week’s worth of prayers, which can also be purchased as an e-book. Prayer books are helpful because they keep us from repeating the same stale prayers over and over. Our history is packed with thousands of years of people seeking God and recording their prayers and songs. It is arrogant to think that their words and insights couldn’t be helpful to us.
-Patience. Returning to prayer during set times each day is about slowing down and remembering. We remember that God is with us and that he is for us. We remember that he cares about our awful days as well as our joys and celebrations. Reading through prayers and absorbing the words down into our own souls allows us to slow down for a bit, and in my experience that is almost always a good thing.
-Grace. Even though you will strive to consistently keep each prayer time over the course of the day, you will fail. You will miss your morning prayer or skip the mid-day one, or might even miss entire days all together. Remember, this is a tool to help you connect to God, not another set of rules to run your life! If you are feeling guilty about your performance you are missing the point!
If you have any questions about fixed-hour prayer or have any other prayer exercises that have encouraged you, please let us know! Also, if you attempt incorporating this type of prayer into your daily life, let me know how it goes!