Editor’s note: As we enter a new year, we often make goals, or “resolutions,” to try to keep throughout the year. They could be related to health and wellness, our relationships, or growth. Perhaps you find yourself wanting to get better at communicating with God but feel a little stuck. In such a busy world, setting aside time may be harder than it sounds, but developing a technique called “fixed-hour prayer” can help create a spiritual muscle-memory while creating unique moments with the Lord throughout this new year. This excerpt is a from a larger prayer journal called With the King, which provides various insights into prayer:
“I don’t even know how to pray today!”
This is a declaration that was part of my language for many years. I came to faith in a charismatic tradition that provided opportunities to encounter God in tangible ways. These moments shaped my life and became markers of God’s presence for me. That said, through the years, I grew concerned when I did not encounter God the same way each time I prayed. Was something wrong with me? I was searching for a way to ground my life in the Spirit between the moments of spontaneous encounter. I needed sacred rhythms.
I became more curious about spiritual disciplines and practices. Mentors and friends were patient with my endless questions. On the journey, friends from other faith traditions and experiences introduced me to an ancient prayer practice called “fixed-hour” prayer. This practice includes written prayers and Scripture readings at certain points of the day (“fixed hours”). It’s one of the oldest forms of Christian spiritual discipline and is even referenced by the Psalmist when he said, “seven times a day do I praise you” (Ps. 119:164). Fixed-hour prayer has developed through Church history and is often referred to as “the liturgy of the hours” or the “divine offices.” I was given a book written by Phyllis Tickle titled The Divine Hours1, and my journey into this sacred rhythm began.
Most of all, I was excited to pray with the Church rather than alone as part of the Church.2 Through these prayers and readings, it seemed as if I was linking arms with something much bigger than my own thoughts and ideas. I could picture faithful Christ-followers through the ages praying the same prayers I was praying, and I found my faith strengthened in a way I didn’t even know I needed. Generations of Christians past along with present Christians around the globe have read and prayed these same words each day. I began by praying the morning and mid-day prayers, and I have since added the evening prayers to my rhythm.
Praying at fixed hours of the day is more about developing spiritual muscle-memory than about having an ecstatic encounter with the Spirit each time I go to pray. This rhythm orders my life. It reminds me of ancient truths and enlarges my heart to be more present with those around me. Without this rhythm, I am apt to grow weary with the energy required to generate something new every day. Praying with the Divine Hours reminds me that my prayers are joined with others. My problems or concerns are not new to God, neither are His truths and solutions unique only to me. I find that I am “rightly placed” as one voice among many who are seeking to live the Jesus way.
Would you pray with me?
Author’s note: One of the ways I have practiced fixed-hour prayer is through the app, Lectio 365. This app was created by 24-7 Prayer and provides morning and evening prayers. You can read through the daily prayers, or you can click to listen to the prayers. This is my favorite way to utilize the resource! Give it a try this week.
1 Phyllis Tickle, ed., The Divine Hours, Pocket ed. (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
2 Scot McKnight, Praying With the Church (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2006).