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Praying the Psalms in Everyday Life

Editors Note: this post is part of a series if posts titled Praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

In A Layman’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, Fr. Timothy Gallagher posits the Liturgy of the Hours is the Church’s “liturgical answer to the desire of our hearts to remember God and remain in relationship with Him throughout the day” (53).

The Liturgy of the Hours sanctifies the various parts of the day by providing a structure for praying our experiences of God with the Universal Church in the everydayness of our everyday routine. It therefore comes alive when we unite the concrete circumstances of our lives with the words we are invited to pray with the psalms, readings and prayers that are prescribed each day.

RELATED: Praying the Psalms with Intentionality

As an example of how the Liturgy of the Hours comes alive throughout the day, let’s take a look at the seven hours provided. 

For morning prayer (Lauds) we are offered the opportunity to dedicate the new day to God.  Themes of the psalms and scripture reading often include creation, resurrection, and new life.  These reminded us to begin our day by first acknowledging the gifts God has given us for the day ahead:  creation, redemption, and eternal life.  With these blessings are countless opportunities:  an opportunity to start fresh; an opportunity to give another try to that which we may have failed at yesterday; an opportunity to “co-create with God” by sharing our gifts with the work we have been called to perform.

As we progress through the day with its various surprises, blessings, disappointments, and struggles, the three hours that follow invite us to stop and relate our experience to salvation history as we recall specific events that took place at these hours (e.g., the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Crucifixion, and death of Jesus, etc).  This affords us an opportunity to unite our frustrations, fears, anxieties, etc. with that of Jesus and His followers.  

Mid-morning prayer (Terce) invites us to take a break from the day to reflect on salvation history.  An ideal time to pray this would be 9:00 a.m.  The theme often invites us to reflect on the descent of the Holy Spirit which came down around mid-morning.  Many of us often begin our workday around this time, so as we reflect on how the Holy Spirit came down just as the early Apostles were beginning their work to share the good news of the Resurrected Christ, we are afforded an opportunity to reflect on how the Holy Spirit has come down to guide us as we begin our own mission for the day.  

At mid-day prayer (Sext) we are invited to take another break from the day to reflect once again on salvation history.  The ideal time to pray this would be around noon.  The psalms and scripture for this hour usually invites us to consider either Jesus’ condemnation by Pilate, His crucifixion, or Peter’s vision in Acts.  By midday we too have often experienced one form of persecution or another.  It could be an angry boss, coworker, or customer.  It could be a failure such as a mistake or a missed deadline. We are given an opportunity to unite our own suffering with Christ as He suffered.

As the day begins to come to a close, at mid-afternoon prayer (None), we reflect on the death of Jesus.  It is therefore ideal to pray this at 3:00pm.  At this time of day, we begin to realize there will be some tasks that remain unfinished.  There will be some disappointments that will remain unresolved.  There will be some frustrations we will have to carry into the next day.  We begin to unite our own powerlessness with the power of Christ Crucified knowing that what seems to remain unresolved on the Cross will lead to Resurrection and new opportunity in the day ahead.

At Evening Prayer (Vespers) we give thanks to God for the day’s work and entrust what remains unfinished or unresolved to the hands of God.  It is ideal to pray this prayer before dinner or just after.  We are invited to entrust our incomplete tasks to the mercy and love of God.  It is comforting as we reflect on the day to remind ourselves that God’s power and love for us transcends the day’s surprises, blessings, and disappointments.

Finally, as we prepare to sleep we also prepare to wake for another day. Night Prayer (Compline) invites us express our confidence in God and pray for His protection who will watch over us as well sleep.

In addition to the seven hours (Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline), the Divine Office includes another feature: Office of Readings. This offers the people of God an even more extensive meditation on sacred Scripture and our Church Tradition.  The Office of Readings includes additional psalms, scripture readings, and various writings throughout Church history (such as a sermon or writing from particular saints).  Saint Augustine is very frequently featured along with other Saints and notable theologians in Church history.  

Next Post: How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

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