Praying the Liturgy of the Hours
Liturgy is the rites and prayers that make up the public worship of the universal Catholic Church. In the same way, this form of prayer is one that people all over the world are constantly praying together. Think about how you can go to Mass anywhere in the world and the readings are exactly the same. It’s like that with the Liturgy of the Hours: a cloistered nun in France is praying the exact same prayers as a priest in Africa and your family in your living room. Isn’t that awesome? This universal characteristic unites us and reminds us that Jesus intended the Church to be everywhere and for everyone.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a mostly centered on the Psalms, but also includes prayers, other scripture readings, and meditations from spiritual masters. It has been part of the Universal Church’s prayer life in some form since her very beginning. The first Christians had a Jewish background and it was part of their tradition to have prayer at the Temple at regular times throughout the day. Eventually, the early Christians developed their own similar tradition and in later centuries this was modified by monks, who would stop what they were doing every three hours throughout the day and night to pray. This practice helped them to find balance in their day between work and prayer, and to fulfill that biblical command to “pray without ceasing.”
Today the Liturgy of the Hours is arranged in a four-week cycle with prayers being said at particular times throughout the day. The most important “hours” are those first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening (Morning and Evening Prayer, also known as Lauds and Vespers). Morning Prayer has an overall tone of praise and Evening Prayer focuses on thanksgiving; two appropriate bookends for each day!
Priests are still required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (also called the Divine Office) each day, but it is no longer just for those with a religious vocation; everyone is invited to pray any or all of the hours.
Night Prayer is the shortest hour to pray, taking only 5-10 minutes. This is also a time when many families already have an established habit of prayer. For these reasons, our suggestion is that you start by praying Night Prayer along with the Universal Church.
These are the online resources we recommend:
Divineoffice.org offers all of the daily hours on their sites, accessible on all devices, including an audio of each day’s prayer that allows you to listen as someone else leads the prayer.
Laudate and iBreviary are free apps that offers the daily readings, Liturgy of the Hours, order of the Mass, prayers, and many other features.
All are now free and easy to use.