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Praying the Hours of the Day: Recovering Daily Prayer

Christian disciples are people who practice basic disciplines. Think of it as keeping our appointments with God. Luke tells us that the early Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42) Already in the New Testament we see the essential shape of Christian prayer practice: keeping a weekly cycle of time on the Lord's Day — the first day of the week — for sharing the preaching and the Lord's Supper (John 20:1, 19, 26; Acts 20:7), and practicing daily prayer (Acts 2:42, 46). Both the yearly cycle of gathering for communal worship each week for prayer and sacrifice and daily prayer at specific times of the day have their roots in Jewish custom and practice.

The liturgical prayer of the church is called by different names — the daily office, the divine office, daily prayer, the liturgy of the hours, praying the hours. The clear aim of this practice is to hallow time — all time as God's time, redeemed in Jesus Christ, and made holy by the Spirit.

As we seek to be and to form disciples, one of the essential practices is the recovery of some form of daily prayer. It is one of the most neglected yet most rewarding disciplines you can include in your practices.

Online Articles About Daily Prayer

Online Resources for Daily Prayer
These are arranged from the simplest to the more complicated forms of daily prayer. All of these are services you can use while sitting at your computer. You may want to spend some time playing around on these sites just to see what is available, but then select one and stick with it for a while. Otherwise, sampling may take too much energy and distract you from God and prayer.

Online Resources Related to Daily Prayer on This Worship Website

Print Resources for Daily Prayer

A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God
The Divine Hoursby Phyllis Tickle
The Prymer: The Prayer Book of the Medieval Era Adapted for Contemporary Useby Rober Webber

Ideas for Incorporating Daily Prayer Into Family and Church Life

  • Establish the habit of praying at least twice a day: in the morning and at evening, however brief the time.
  • Memorize simple short prayers to pray at the seven traditional hours of the day.This way you can pray the hours even if you are driving or changing a diaper.
  • Offer morning or evening prayer daily at church. Be there and invite others to come when they can. I did this for years as a pastor, and the custodian and I prayed the office of morning prayer every weekday for years. When I wasn't there, he went to the chapel and prayed the morning office. At another church, a rotation of people joined me in the sanctuary each morning.
  • Use "Daily Praise and Prayer" in The United Methodist Hymnal (876) or in The United Methodist Book of Worship (568) to begin or end meetings such as administrative council, choir, or trustees. Mark time with Christ and make meetings worshipful work. These are flexible, simple services.
  • Use a daily lectionary for choosing readings. One option is Gail Ramshaw's Between Sundays: Daily Readings Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Combine these readings with use of "Daily Praise and Prayer" each day.
  • Make a mental habit of imagining that you are joining with the whole church when you pray in the morning, evening, or at night. Embody this communal sense of prayer by praying the hours with others — a work colleague, your spouse or other family member, other church staff, and so forth.
  • Pray in a sacred space: at church or at home, create a space with the necessary prayer resources, an icon, candle, or other items that will make the space God's and yours. You will find help for this as well as praying the daily office in Patricia D. Brown's Paths to Prayer.
  • Take a retreat at a nearby monastery or convent. Join in the rhythms of the community's daily prayer and carry the feel and new understanding of praying the hours back to your day-to-day world.
  • Avoid strain: make it a discipline but don't overexert yourself. Do what you can in simple ways to pray the day with Christ. The daily office is not a chore; it is a delight that brings focus to the rest of the hours and moments of the day.
  • Make good use of the Psalms, the Bible's prayer book. Most of the forms of the daily office include praying the Psalms as part of the practice. You may want to dwell with one psalm for the whole week — or one for the morning and another for the evening. Whatever you do, listen for the words that resonate with your spirit and carry them gently on your heart and in your mind through the day.
  • Play or sing music for daily prayer. For example, the Taizé community in France has produced simple short songs suitable for daily prayer. Most current hymnals include some of these. You can purchase Taizé music from G.I.A. There are numerous Taizé songs in The Faith We Sing.

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