What is praying the hours Catholic?

Answered by John Hunt

Praying the Hours, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, is a form of prayer in the Catholic Church that consists of reciting or chanting a series of prayers and readings throughout the day. It is an ancient tradition that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity, and it is considered one of the official prayers of the Church, alongside the Mass.

The Liturgy of the Hours is structured around the different “hours” or times of the day, including Morning Prayer (Lauds), Midmorning Prayer (Terce), Midday Prayer (Sext), Midafternoon Prayer (None), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). Each of these hours has its own set of prayers, psalms, and readings that reflect the spiritual themes and rhythms of the day.

The purpose of praying the Hours is to sanctify and consecrate the day to God. It is a way for Catholics to participate in the Church’s continuous prayer for the world and to unite themselves with the prayers of the entire Church. By praying the Hours, Catholics enter into a meditative dialogue with God, using scripture and prayer to reflect on the mystery of Christ and to offer praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication.

The prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours are primarily composed of psalms, hymns, and canticles from the Bible. These ancient prayers have been handed down through the centuries and have become a rich source of spiritual nourishment for countless believers. The psalms, in particular, express a wide range of human emotions and experiences, from joy and praise to lament and sorrow. By praying the psalms, Catholics can find comfort, inspiration, and guidance in their own spiritual journey.

In addition to the psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours also includes readings from the Old and New Testaments, as well as writings from the Church Fathers and other spiritual authors. These readings help to deepen the understanding of the scriptures and provide further reflection on the themes of the day. The prayers are often accompanied by intercessions for the needs of the Church and the world, as well as personal intentions.

Praying the Hours is not limited to priests and religious. Lay Catholics are also encouraged to participate in this form of prayer, although the extent of their participation may vary depending on personal circumstances and commitments. Many laypeople choose to pray at least one or two of the Hours each day, while others may strive to pray all of the Hours as part of their spiritual discipline.

The Liturgy of the Hours can be prayed individually or in community. In monastic settings, the Hours are often chanted or sung in a group, creating a beautiful and solemn atmosphere of worship. However, it is also possible to pray the Hours privately, using a breviary or a smartphone app that provides the texts for each hour.

Praying the Hours is a way for Catholics to sanctify their daily lives and to align their thoughts, words, and actions with the rhythm of God’s grace. It is a reminder that prayer is not just something we do in church or during times of crisis, but a continual conversation with God that shapes our entire existence. By participating in the Liturgy of the Hours, Catholics can deepen their relationship with God, grow in holiness, and be united with the universal Church in prayer.