Friday, November 6, 2015

A Prodigious Prayer Primer: the Divine Office

Prayer.  (Sigh) I think that most can sympathize with the idea that I should probably pray a little more, I mean, more than I actually do pray, because of course I do pray a little bit...  Right?  There are obstacles to prayer at every turn: life is busy and I can't find time for prayer; prayer is more of an abstract idea that I find difficult to make my own; I always get distracted with 100 other things when I try to pray.

Here's something that could help with all these problems: check out the liturgy of the hours, also known as the divine office.  I have been at it for several months now and it has been helpful, enlightening, encouraging, and spiritually enriching.

Here's an example.  A little while back, it was Friday of the 22nd week in ordinary time, I was struck by the second antiphon in office of readings, which read "Lord, you know all my longings."  I was instantly brought to a deeper level of prayer and reflection, of contact with my human experience of life.  I was not thinking at that depth, but it brought me there and helped me bring those things to the Lord.

Then the second reading offered me another nugget- the reading was from a sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great, who lived in the 400's.  The nugget was his reflection on humility- in this virtue all classes and conditions of men coincide.  We are all sinners and yet all children of God.  This tells me something: it tells me that whoever is before me, whether it's Lebron James or a homeless person I will probably never meet again, I have a duty to love them and to proclaim the Gospel.  When it comes to salvation and eternity, we are all in the same boat- we must all be humble.

the liturgy of the hours can be prayed alone or with a group

Lights like this, passages that jump out at me and speak to me as a seeingly personal message, come with surprising frequency.  I encourage you to take up this form of prayer, or at least some part of it: the are several different combinations you could try. For those just starting, I often recommend morning prayer and evening prayer, as these are the most important hours, even if they are not the longest ones, of the day.  The other parts are centered on these two, and each can be done in 5-10 minutes.  If you have under five minutes, you could try the midday hour at your lunch break. If you are looking for something else for a little personal and spiritual enrichment everyday, try just reading the second reading in the office of readings- these are taken from various sources and always seem to offer novel reflections and ideas.  Whatever you do, it is key to approach this prayer with an attitude of listening, of docility, of desiring to hear the Lord's voice. He does speak to us when we make the time to listen.