Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening offering.(Psalm 141)
Our communal prayer takes on many forms. We begin this part of our journey with a study of the “Liturgy of the Hours.” The parts of the Liturgy of the Hours that are more well known are Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (Vespers). But there is much more to the Liturgy of the Hours than this.
“The Constitution on the Divine Liturgy of Vatican II tells us that praying the Liturgy of the Hours has special status, immediately after the Eucharist in importance as the public prayer of the church.”*
On the USCCB website, the Liturgy of the Hours is described this way: “The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God (Opus Dei), is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ, using scripture and prayer.”**
Liturgy of the Hours encourages us all to be in prayer all through the day. We may not always have the opportunity to gather with others withing our worshiping community for a more formalized time of prayer, but we can do all or any part of the Liturgy of the Hours alone. And it is an important reminder that we are to hold in our minds and thoughts and prayer our needs and the needs of those around us and to live each moment in thanksgiving and praise.
“In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; also 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world.**
“The Liturgy of the Hours includes several specified times of prayer. The most important times, called the “hinge hours,” are Morning Prayer (which takes place upon rising) and Evening Prayer (which takes place as dusk begins to fall). The other hours are the Office of Readings (a service with a biblical reading and a reading from the Fathers or Church writers or a reading related to a saint which may take place at any time of day), a Daytime Prayer (which may take place at Midmorning, Midday, or Midafternoon), and Night Prayer (said before going to sleep).**
“Bishops, priests, deacons, and many men and women in consecrated life pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Their work is organized around this prayer, keeping God always at the center of their days. Lay people are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as well, especially Morning and Evening Prayer. Many parishes in the United States schedule communal Morning and Evening Prayer on a regular basis.”**
The form for Morning and Evening Prayer are similar, they both include the singing of Psalms and Canticles from scripture, readings and prayers. Morning prayer is more focused on praise and Evening prayer is focused on thanksgiving.
Here is a link to a more complete description of the Liturgy of the hours.
At this point in our journey, let us take a few moments to contemplate how we may use these prayer opportunities in our lives. How would praying the hours help me be more mindful of Christ’s presence in my daily living? How may the hours help me to gain a better appreciation of my personal prayer life and my prayer at Mass?
May we continue to grow in our understanding and mindfulness of the many ways we can grow in relationship with God and with each other.
*Spirituality Committee of the Federal Association USA, The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and Malta, 28 Different Ways to Pray, Paulist Press, 2011.