It was more than 25 years ago that I began to pray the Divine Office or The Liturgy of the Hours. I couldn’t tell you now what made me start praying this way, but I can tell you what a difference it has made to me over these many years. Here are just a few of the things I value about this prayer:
It gives me something to pray about besides me. Like many people, I desire a relationship with God in prayer and I’m willing to commit time and energy to it. And like many people, left to my own devices, my prayer quickly dissolves into: “Help me,” “I need,” “I want,” “I need healing,” “I’m tired,” “me, me, me, me, ME.” The Liturgy of the Hours forces my attention outward: honoring God for his goodness, understanding the ways of God, meditating on the Scriptures, praying for all the needs of the Church and of our society. You would be amazed at the Intercession section of the Morning and Evening prayers—how widespread and inclusive and loving they are.
It helps me to be faithful to prayer. Morning and evening prayer are now just part of my routine. On days when I am running late or distracted (pretty much every day), it gives me focus and it gives me an entry into prayer. Often these ritual prayers lead me deeper into a conversation with God. I can’t tell you how helpful the structure of this prayer has been to help me overcome myself and begin to pray.
It teaches me about God. The backbone of the Liturgy of the Hours is the psalms, and these prayers speak of God and his relationship with us. They speak to every emotion, every need. They speak to God’s care for us and his provision in so many ways. They praise God for his greatness. That is particularly difficult for me to formulate on my own, but the psalms lead me into worship of God, and I am grateful to have help with this important aspect of prayer.
It joins me to the whole Church. One of the things I love is knowing that around the world men and women in many circumstances are joined with me in these very prayers. I feel a spiritual connection to them. Huddled over my coffee in the early-morning hours, I feel somehow joined to the universal body of Christ. I can’t explain it, but there is something wonderful there.
A recent book explains much more of the “whys” and “hows” of the Liturgy of the Hours. The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours by Daria Sockey is full of practical help for those who might have considered this type of prayer but gave up because they were intimidated. Sockey explains the history, the value of this prayer, and most importantly how to do it. There are different versions of the prayer books and there are also options for praying online.
I recently purchased a Divine Office app that has made my prayer life so much more convenient. No more lugging big, heavy prayer books when I travel. Sockey lays out all the features and benefits of the various options. Her love for this prayer is contagious, and I hope you catch the fever!