Praying the Offices—The Divine Hours
David said: I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. (Psalms 119:164 NLT). If you take a 24 hour day and divide it by seven, David was thinking about praising God every 3 1/2 hours. Some of the early monasteries took this literally. Every 3 1/2 hours they would proceed to the chapel and recite the next portion of the book of Psalms—their prayer book. In one week’s time they would have recited the entire book of Psalms. For seven days they would recite seven times a day about three Psalms.
Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. This was the time of the evening sacrifice, which was 3 p.m. Remembering that a day for a Jewish person would begin at 6 p.m. through to 6 p.m. the next day. The morning sacrifice was at 9 a.m. (the third hour). The afternoon sacrifice was at 3 p.m. (the ninth hour) which, coincidentally was the time Jesus died!
Acts 10:30-32 (NKJV) So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.
David said: (NKJV) Psalm 55:17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud.
The early church was together constantly both in their homes and in the temple. Acts 2:46-47 (NKJV) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
I am about to make a pretty bold statement—hopefully you are sitting down and ready! It is very doubtful you will progress in your spiritual development if you have only one set time of God-connection. Allow me to flesh that out a bit for you.
- A high percentage of people I speak to about this matter of prayer etc. struggle with finding one time per day of prayer, devotion, or Bible reading of some kind. Most people are working at trying to find some level of consistency; even for 10 minutes per day!
- David is suggesting seven times a day. The Jewish people practiced daily gatherings, morning and evening prayer times.
- Our goal should be the permeation of our life with the presence and touch of God. We want God in all our lives—leading us, guiding us, changing us. We want to be going through life in a God-honouring manner.
- If in a 24 hour period of time, we sleep eight hours we are awake 16 other hours. Common sense will tell us that the impact of 10 minutes out of 960 minutes in a 16 hour period of time is not likely to have a lot of effect.
But don’t quit.
I have a suggestion!
It’s not that long ago that my grandchildren were babies and even now they are little children. We went through various phases of feedings, and seating plans for them when they came for a meal. Starting out very small and plain they progressed to larger and fancier meals. No one would think of offering a nice T-Bone steak to a six month old baby.
Likewise when it comes to feeding your soul: reading, worship, praying, Bible reading—start small—but often! This is starting small but doing something often.
I will give you a few examples to try:
- Begin with reading the Gospels; but don’t get up tomorrow morning and read all of Matthew. Decide to read a paragraph per sitting, and have three sittings per day.
- Take one verse of Scripture, write in on a scrap of paper, or put in on your phone, and read it over and over again for the day. Every time you think about it…read it.
- Take the full plunge and research praying the offices or the divine offices. (Google those terms)
What I want to push you towards is more of Jesus. I have a saying that I’ve used 100’s of times. ‘Whatever you feed—grows.’ Keep feeding your spirit, as often as you can throughout the day. Don’t worry about how small the feeding is —just do it!