Prayer. It’s such an important thing in our lives. Yet there’s so many different ways to pray. Of course, you can go to Mass, but past that, it can be a little intimidating. Where to start? How often should you pray? To be honest, what should I say? There’s one simple solution to all these problems. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s not just a prayer for priests and nuns. It’s a prayer for all the faithful, that the church has given us, and there are so many great things about it. While clergy are the only ones obligated to pray it, the church intends it to be a prayer of all the Christian faithful, uniting them in the public liturgical prayer of the church. The church has given this as a gift to all Catholics. While clergy are the only ones obligated to pray it, the church intends it to be a prayer of all the Christian faithful, uniting them in the public liturgical prayer of the church.
When you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you unite yourselves with the prayers of the entire church. Every bishop, priest, deacon, and a great multitude of the faithful, and even the pope are all praying the exact same prayers with you. Just as in a crowd, you can shout your own message and be quietly heard, if you unite with the entire crowd, and all shout the same thing, it becomes much more powerful. The same is true with our prayer. When we unite in prayer with the entire church, it be comes much more powerful. And anyways, what can be better then praying the psalms?
One great aspect of the Liturgy of the Hours is the rhythm of the prayer. Vespers, or Evening Prayer, is always prayed around dinner time. Compline, or Night Prayer, likewise, is always before bed. And Lauds, or Morning Prayer, is right around breakfast time. This structure truly helps one get into the habit of prayer, which is one thing I struggle with, and I’m sure many of you do as well.
Another thing that is so wonderful about the Liturgy of the Hours is it’s relevance to our daily lives. I mean nearly day I pray morning prayer, later that day I look back, and realize that something struck me from one of the psalms and it directly related to my day. Likewise, when I pray vespers, something always strikes me as relevant to what is going on in my life. I may have had a bad day, and lo and behold, I open it up, and start praying a psalm talk about sinking into despair, and rising out of it. This is truly God at work. This isn’t something that can be planned. The rotation has been set up decades ago, yet it is still applicable to my life today. This is one of the many great mysteries of the liturgy.
There’s also something really great about them: they are the same for everyone, so you can all pray together. So when you are with friends, you can just say “Let’s go pray vespers in the church before dinner!” You could all open up your breviaries, and just pray as a group, with no preparation time needed. It’s all right there! This is exactly how the church designed it, because she wants us to make ample usage of this great treasure like this.
“Now,” you may say, “that’s all great, but I can’t afford a bunch of expensive books!” Just slow down there. It’s not nearly as expensive as you might think. To get the simplest version, it’s less than $13, and is very compact. And to get a more complete version, it’s not too much more. But even if you have a hard time shelling out the money, think of it as an investment. You will be using these for years, and they are more than worth it.
“But Ben,” you may continue, “this is all great, but even if I do get the book, it’s probably too complicated for me. There’s too much page flipping back and forth.” But it’s really quite easy to learn! And it may seem like a lot of page flipping at first, but it’s really not as much as it seems. And just like at Mass, you won’t need to read the responses, because you’ll just know them because you’ve said them so many times. If you are interested, shoot me an email.
Many people struggle with their prayer life. Don’t be one of those people.
Pray without ceasing. Pray with the church. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
Based on a speech given on November 4th for my public speaking class.