The Liturgy of Hours is prayer of the Catholic Church that can be prayed either alone or in a group. It is a prayer of the Psalms that is aligned with the Liturgical year. Throughout the Liturgical year there are variations in the text that allow for devotion to saints and feast days. The prayers are prayed at specifically assigned hourly increments during the day. In some cases the prayer time is condensed to morning and evening prayer. The practice is designed to be an extension of the Mass and it is very powerful whether or not you attend daily Mass.
Like the Mass, praying the Liturgy of Hours is very connecting because others are praying with you at any given time whether or not you are in the same physical location. Not only are others joining you locally, but there are people praying the Liturgy of Hours around the world.
In the past praying the Liturgy of Hours was difficult for most to navigate and required carrying large books that needed to be searched and referenced in order to pray with the assigned text. Now with the introduction of Apps that are readily available using SmartPhones, tablets, computers, etc., it is easy to access the readings at any time.
The prayer day is designed to pray at specific hours (that are also referred to by their Latin names):
Morning Prayer 6:00 am (Laude)
Mid-Morning Prayer 9:00 am (Terce)
Mid-Day Prayer Noon (Sext)
Afternoon Prayer 3:00 pm (None - no translation)
Evening Prayer (Vespers) 6:00 pm
Night Prayer (Compline) 9:00 pm
Office of Readings or Divine Office These are longer readings that can be prayed at any time and can be coupled with any other prayer hour. It is common to pray this prior to or in conjunction with the morning prayer.
The time it takes to pray each hour, which refers to the hour on the clock that it is prayed, ranges from about 10 to 20 minutes depending on your style and reflection. There are themes that underlay the Prayers for the Hours based on time of day. For example, in the morning we typically dedicate our day and praise God for all the great gifts, mid-morning we ask for nurturing and protecting of things good in our hearts, at noon for continued blessing over our work, and at night it is a good time to examine your conscience and to close the day.
Suggestions for Beginners
If praying the Liturgy of the Hours seems too complex or like too big of a time commitment, consider some of the following suggestions:
Start simple. Consider praying morning prayer to dedicate your day and evening prayer to close your day, at a time that is natural and convenient for you.
Pray on the same schedule as the Liturgy of Hours but say a simple prayer that suits your style. Your prayer can be as simple as a pause in your day or reciting a Catholic prayer or a brief conversation with the Lord.
Pray one of the hours, requiring about 10 minutes of your time, preferably the one that is easiest for you based on your schedule.
Set a gentle and somewhat quiet alarm as a reminder of the hours. Be sure to silence the alarm before Eucharistic Adoration.
Pray on the designated hour, but only pray a portion of the prayer. The Short Reading may be of interest here.
If composing your own prayer, align your intentions with the themes of the hours.
If you already attend a regular schedule of Eucharistic Adoration, consider praying the hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
If you've always wanted to try Eucharistic adoration, but were unsure of what to pray, try praying one of the hours during adoration.
To find free apps or websites to pray along with search for Liturgy of the Hours click here to see the Universalisweb page as one example. Try it and let us know what works for you. We'd love to hear from you.