In the Gospel of Luke (21:36), Jesus tells us: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" Since the earliest days of the Christian era, individual Christians and the Church, in general, have sought ways to meet the demands placed in us by our Lord. Unless we can find a way to view our work, play and sleep as prayer, it seems impossible to rise to the standard. Thankfully, however, if we do all things for the Lord, this becomes possible. Unfortunately though, most of us tend to forget about the presence of the Lord, during the hustle and bustle of the day's work. When we get home, things are little better. The television goes on; the evening newspaper arrives; the children are falling out; the dinner needs cooking, etc. The pace of life and the technology available to us have ensured that we now seem to have precious little time to pray. So we need reminders (e.g. crucifixes, statues of Our Lady, etc.) and aids to help us. In this respect, the Divine Office is a first class aid!
Divine Office The Divine Office includes the Church's pattern of prayers for each day of the year and for each religious season. Traditionally, eight discrete 'hours' of prayer are defined - shown on the table above.
Most of us do not live in monasteries, so we need to find a different way of regulating our prayer life. Morning and evening prayer (from the Divine Office) are readily available as a separate book, which covers Lauds, Vespers and Compline. The readings are inspiring and following the regular daily rhythm helps to put the other activities of the day into context. We can even make a partial observance of the other hours. Remember, the term 'hour' does not mean 60 minutes! It simply indicates a point in the day. Vigils may be appropriate for those on shift work, or even if we wake in the night and cannot get back to sleep easily: a short prayer may help. Lauds should be possible around breakfast time as long as we get up early enough. In it we can give thanks for the new day and commit it God. Use the readings from the book! Prime can be recalled when we arrive at work, just before we start, a quick quiet prayer asking for God's help and guidance is not too difficult. Terce fits in well with the coffee break. Try to pray silently while you walk down the corridor to the canteen or staff room. Sext equals lunchtime. Try to get away from the crowd for ten minutes and reflect on how the day is going. Ask for God's guidance. None can equate with 'home time'. We can ask ourselves how the day has gone, offer thanks and commit any problems to God before we set off home. Vespers should be possible for most of us. A good time is when we get back home from work. Have a cup of coffee and read vespers from 'Morning and Evening Prayer'. Compline can be said just before we go to bed.
Origins of the Divine Office The Jews already had a routine of regular prayers throughout the day, so it was natural that the early Christians extended the practice. The 'rules' of the early monastic movements, especially, the rule of Saint Benedict, firmed up the times that communal prayers should be said. For a fuller account of the origins of the Office click here.