When examining the importance of daily prayer and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, we can find ourselves faced with several questions concerning prayer itself. When we begin to answer some of the basic questions involving prayer, we can begin see the importance of the Divine Office in our daily conversations with God. We are called as Catholics “in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us.”
First, what do we mean by prayer? Prayer can come in many forms; silent, contemplative, vocal, group, and meditative. What does prayer do for people for faith? That can vary depending on the faith. Catholic prayer allows for personal reflection, intercession, petition, blessing, adoration, thanksgiving and praise. What happens during prayer? As Catholics we can communicate with the saints, Our Immaculate Mother Mary, St. Joseph, our Father and Lord, and our Guardian Angels. We convey our thanks, praise, fears, sorrows, desires, hopes, joys, and pain. We seek guidance, forgiveness and comfort in the trials of daily life.
Why then is prayer so important? Because prayer can take place on many levels, but most importantly at a personal level. Prayer allows us to connect with God on an intimate level. Even when we are praying as a part of a group or community, we are affirming our relationship with God individually; prayer coming from our thoughts and our lips. Everyday the Liturgy of the Hours begins with the Sign of the Cross silently followed by “Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.”
Why should we pray daily? Daily prayer helps us strengthen our faith by incorporating it into our everyday lives. Our faith will become a real presence in all we do, everyday, everywhere! Daily prayer is not something unique to Catholicism. As a student, I have the opportunity to talk with other students of various faiths about the importance of daily prayer in their spirituality. The answer was always the same; daily prayer allowed these individuals to make a real connection with their faith on a consistent basis. Daily prayer provided them with an opportunity to connect to that which they found to be most important and influential in their lives; they were truly living their faith. One Muslim friend prayed devotedly five times a day, my Jewish friends prayed three times a day, sometimes more on various observances. One Baha’i friend had several daily obligatory prayers. They devoted several times of the day to specific prayer. There really is something to be said about connecting the day to prayer and God; something that deepens an individual’s spirituality. Catholics are no different.
Many Catholics start the day off with a morning offering followed by daily Mass. At noon we say the Angelus or the Regina Coeli, depending on the season. Some pray the Rosary in the morning, others at night followed by an examination of conscience. There is always the opportunity during the day to offer up a novena for a special intention. Catholicism is certainly not void of daily prayer.
So why pray the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours? This is my favorite question, I mean, as Catholics, don’t we already pray enough during the day? I am not in anyway undermining the importance of the Morning Offering, Angelus, novenas, or the Rosary; as Catholics we should continue to do all of these. The Divine Office seems to be a mystery and one of the best kept secrets of daily Catholic prayer. It is not really a secret, just often very misunderstood.
I have been amazed by all the misconceptions I have heard about the Divine Office when talking with people. I have heard just about everything including, “I thought the Vatican didn’t allow it any more”, “Only priests are required to pray It,” “Lay people aren’t required to pray it,” or “Lay people really don’t need to or shouldn’t pray it.” Others told me, “There is no special way to pray the Divine Office. It is just a book of prayers.” One older gentleman thought that I was referring to the Bible when I mentioned the Divine Office. Let us begin to clear up some of these misconceptions.
The Divine Office allows for us as Catholics to set special times of the day aside to connect with our faith and our relationship to Christ. “This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to ‘pray constantly,’ is ‘so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.’ In this ‘public prayer of the church, the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized.’” The Liturgy of the Hours is “like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration.”
Anyone can pray the Divine Office. The Catechism states that “The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole people of God.” Many clergy who have received holy orders, as well as many vowed religious, are obligated to pray the Divine Office, but they are not the only ones who are “allowed” to say it. Laity “are encouraged to recite the Divine Office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.”
Prayer is good in any form; all prayer has merit with God. There is a proper way to pray the Divine Office just like the Mass has a set order when it is celebrated. The procedure can vary slightly depending on the community in which the Divine Office is prayed, but for the most part it is consistent in form. “Celebrated in ‘the form approved’ by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours ‘is truly the voice of the bride herself addressed to her bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.’”
The Divine Office can also be called the “Liturgy of the Hours”, as it is called in the Catechism, but it is not the Bible or the New or Old Testament. The Divine Office can deepen the “understanding of the liturgy and of the Bible, especially of the Psalms.”
As Catholics we are all called to be priests, prophets and kings through the liturgy or “public work” of Christ. When we make prayer an important part of our day, whether it be in the form of “Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father – every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.”
Many small daily devotionals contain excerpts from the Divine Office; thus, many Catholics have been praying part of the Liturgy of the Hours without realizing it. We as Catholics are obligated to grow in our faith through daily prayer with God; He wants to hear from us! Daily prayer can affirm our faith and change the way we walk in our daily life with Christ.
 Catholic Church, “Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition” (2000), 639.
 Ibid., 648-653.
 Ibid., 632-636.
 Catholic Book Publishing Company. “Liturgy of the Hours. Volume III Ordinary Time Weeks 1-17” (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 1975), 649.
 Catholic Church, “Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition” (2000), 304.
 Ibid., 305.
 Ibid., 304.
 Ibid., 304.
 Ibid., 304.
 Ibid., 304.
 Ibid., 278.
 Ibid., 361.
Pax et Bonum!
*Original post David’s Place April 2005
Copyright © 2013 David Schram All Rights Reserved