For many Christians, prayer is a sporadic and erratic event. Do you have a daily prayer time to which you commit? I’d like to hear about it.
From the tradition in which I grew up, the “liturgy of the hours” wasn’t practiced. Well, it may have been by some, but they certainly didn’t call it that. In fact, there was often a disdained attitude toward anything that feels or sounds Catholic or “corporatized” about Christianity. I don’t think anyone hated the traditions of Christendom, but there certainly was an attitude present – whether taught overtly, or environmentally absorbed – that had little value for human traditions of “the church” (the Roman Catholic church). However, there is great value in understanding the meandering road of our Christian history; whether good or bad in its practices.
Too often, Christians I know participate in something I’d call drive-thru prayer. After all, we hit the drive-thru for an expressed purpose, and are quick about it, and when it’s over we have little use for it again until next time we visit out of convenience or because we’re in a hurry. Too often prayer is treated the same way.
In my heritage, we prayed, and were encouraged to pray. In fact, we often quoted Paul of Tarsus’s instruction to the Colossians in 4:2; “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.” But there has often been something missing. While of particular value, I’m referring to much more than dinner-table or bed-time prayer.
In the history of the church, there was a group who became known as the desert fathers. One of the traditions they developed was a revitalized Jewish practice; a specific time of day in which practitioners would devote themselves to spiritual communion with God in prayer. Out of this practice developed many different types of prayer and spiritual exercises focused on drawing nearer to the Almighty through prayer, meditation, & reading. (I’d encourage you to click the link on desert fathers and learn more about them!)
About 500-600 years before Christ, Daniel the Hebrew’s practice is documented; “Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.” He continued in other situations with this prayer ritual – “Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” He was a Hebrew taken into exile with others from the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. These historical events are well documented outside the Bible.
Back to the point: I’m very interested in hearing from anyone who has developed a personal practice of the divine hours, or “the divine office” or whatever you call your fixed time(s) of prayer each day. This is an ancient practice, and I’d be interested in knowing the value of it that you have experienced. Have you set alarms on your phone to do this? Ever how private it must be, do you stop anything you’re doing to devote yourself to that communion with God?
It’s really about holiness. I try my best to be holy at all hours of the day, whether public or private alone time. We live in a time where UNHOLINESS, wickedness, and hedonistic idolatry is the god of most of the world, regardless of whether or not they visit a church like a drive-through every week. It’s a challenge to be what we need to be, and to continue to stand out. My prayer for myself and my family is that we would be like Daniel; “Now this Daniel was distinguishing himself above the other supervisors and the satraps, for he had an extraordinary spirit. In fact, the king intended to appoint him over the entire kingdom.”
Have you developed a practice of this in your life? In light of recent political and social developments in our country, how has this affected your divine hours time? We who are disciples of Jesus should make time, and make it a priority to put in the solitude time. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful comments.