October 9, 2013
The Prayer of the Church
This morning I witnessed a stunning pre-dawn sky as I prepared to say Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours so I quickly snapped a photo. The heavens truly do declare the glory of God.
Some people have said that the entire Church prays the same prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours at the same time. Of course, on this spinning globe that's impossible.
It's much more exciting than that.
By the time I prayed on my veranda in Tokyo, Christians in New Zealand and parts of Australia and Russia had already seen the sunrise, and had already prayed the same Psalms that I was praying at that moment.
After I finished my prayers, the Christians in Korea and China and all of Asia would be praying the same Psalms, followed by Christians in Europe and Africa, Greenland, and finally the Americas.
These same Psalms would be prayed all around the globe over a 24 hour period in a sort of prayer marathon or vigil.
And it would start all over again with Morning Prayer followed by the Daytime Prayers, followed by Evening Prayer, followed by Night Prayer, plus the Office of Readings, coming again and again at roughly three hour intervals.
They are also known by their traditional names: Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline and Matins.
So nearly every three hours a new wave of prayer sweeps across the globe. Of course, not everybody follows the exact same time table, so at any given time somebody is praying somewhere.
With the same Psalms and prayers circling the globe in waves, rising to up to heaven all day and all night, there is never a moment when the Church is not praying.
Some will gather in churches or monasteries to pray these prayers together, and others will pray alone at home.
But they are all praying in agreement with the same words because they use the same prayer book called a Breviary which consists mainly of the Psalms, plus Bible readings, hymns and other prayers.
There's also a place for your spontaneous prayers, although the prayers that I manage to think up can never measure up to the ones God has provided in the Bible.
But now the Breviary has been translated into many languages, so all the Christians in the world are able combine their voices in the various languages of the world to pray the same prayers to one God.
I have both a Japanese Breviary and some English editions which were published in America and Africa, but the contents are the same, and it goes through all the Psalms every four weeks.The Liturgy of the Hours is also called the Divine Office, or just the Breviary.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a product of the Catholic Church, which should come as no surprise since the history of the Liturgy of the Hours goes all the way back to the early days when there was no other Church but the Catholic Church.
But its use isn't restricted to Catholics. Protestants and other non-Catholics can also use the Breviary in their personal devotions, and from what I've heard and read on the web, many do.
The Liturgy of the Hours is the Prayer of the Church.
As you know, most of the Psalms are written as prayers. I can easily offer up the prayers which praise God, but there other prayers for help and deliverance and justice which don't reflect my personal experience at the moment. I can't identify with them personally.
Take for example Psalm 74:
Did you read this entire Psalm, or did your eyes glaze over, as you gradually lost interest? How is anyone supposed to read -- let alone try to pray -- such a long block of text that does not scratch where they itch?
While I can't personally identify with this prayer, it is very relevant to the Body of Christ which cries out to God for help as Christians are murdered and Churches are destroyed in various hostile countries throughout the world, as we have heard in the news lately (as I write these words).
If I can picture the situation or call to mind the images I have seen in the news, then suddenly it becomes much easier to pray these Psalms from the heart and join my voice with the Prayer of the Church.
Suddenly it becomes personal as the Body of Christ prays for its own urgent needs. They become my own prayers as a member of that Body.
There has to be a real power when such fervent, heart-felt prayers are being offered in succession around the globe by the Universal Church. Now I look forward to joining in on those prayers.
It's no wonder the popes have been exhorting us to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The world needs the Church to be praying with one voice and one heart. I hope you will join us.
Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is to use a free online version. I have provided links below.
Online versions of the Liturgy of the Hours:
Other useful links
Other articles by Russ Stutler:
Psalm 74 is reprinted from The Revised Grail Psalms
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