Praying the Hours

The tradition of Praying the fixed hours, also known as the Divine Office, is based on several Biblical passages which encourage prayer ‘at all times’, ‘without ceasing’ and ‘seven times a day’.

In addition to set prayers (which can be as simple as the Lord’s prayer, or much more complex like the liturgies and litanies of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches), a reading is also traditionally included. Here are some basic suggestions.

Prime
Prayer on rising, the first hour at 6:00 am
Reading: Daily Psalm

Terce
The third hour at 9:00 am
Reading: from the Book of Common Prayer Old Testament Reading, or the weekly Torah Portions.

Sext
The sixth hour at 12:00 noon
In the home monastery, prayers may be said around the dinner table, with family and/or friends.
Reading: lives of saints and heroes of the faith.

None
The ninth hour at 3:00 pm
Reading: Prophets from the Book of Common Prayer or the Haftara reading from the weekly portion.

[Since the Celtic and Jewish day began at sunset, the None, Vespers or even the Compline prayer would be considered the first of the day, depending on the time of year.]

Vespers
Twelfth hour 6:00 pm
Around the dinner table.
Reading: a Psalm, a Proverb, or the Gospel reading, either the Book of Common Prayer or the Torah portions,

Compline
9:00 pm or Bedtime
The traditional monastic bedtime prayer is the Song of Simeon, or Nunc Dimittis
Alternatively, from the Jewish tradition, there is the Bedtime Shema.
[Link to Jewish Comline]

Night Prayer
An additional night prayer, at any time between midnight and 3:00 am, was traditionally observed in monasteries. This completes the “7 times a day”.

Vigils
There is an additional, eighth hour of prayer on the evening before major festivals such as Christmas and Easter.

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