When I was in college, one of my friends left the seminary. While adjusting back to normal college life, the biggest thing he missed was prayer. Specifically, he missed how prayer structured his days through the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, which the seminarians prayed together each day. The Liturgy of the Hours is a form of prayer that follows the rhythm of each day through psalms, Scripture, and prayers. There is Morning Prayer to begin the day, Daytime Prayers at mid-morning, noon, and in the afternoon, Evening Prayer at the end of the day’s work, and Night Prayer to offer up the day to God before going to sleep.
Together, these prayers help us live out the call from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.”
Priests and religious pray these prayers everyday, but all of us are invited to do so as well. I was introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours when the above-mentioned friend started getting a group together to pray Night Prayer. We fumbled through thick and confusing books (there are a lot of prayers to keep track of!) and sang the Hail, Holy Queen off-key, but we made it through, and the beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours was made known to us.
There is a deep sense of connection when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s incredible to think that around the world, thousands of people are praying the same prayers, offering up their work and days to God. And these prayers have been prayed over and over again for years, and yet they still pertain to our lives today.
So, how do you pray the Liturgy of the Hours? We are going to start with how to pray Night Prayer – it’s the shortest (7 days) and easiest to follow along with, and is a great way to begin learning the Divine Office. You can get the book that contains the Liturgy of the Hours, or you can pray it through Hallow, found in the Sleep section. Here’s an outline to get you started and help you follow along (italicized parts are said together!)
Night Prayer Outline
God, come to my assistance. (do the Sign of the Cross)
– Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
– as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia.
Examination of Conscience:
Take a few moments to examen your conscience from the day.
Let’s ask God for forgiveness as we pray: I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I ask the blessed Mary ever-virgin, and all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Psalmody (this will change each day):
- Antiphon (a short phrase taken from the psalm)
- Pray: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen.
- Repeat antiphon
Reading from Scripture (this will change each day)
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– I commend my spirit.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Gospel Canticle: from the Song of Simeon in Luke chapter 2 (often sung)
- Antiphon: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.
- Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people. A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Isreal.
- Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever. Amen.
- Repeat antiphon: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.
Concluding Prayer (this will change each day)
Closing blessing: May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Amen.
Song in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary: (You can choose other prayers, such as the Hail Mary, and this is often sung)
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, o loving, o sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We look forward to praying Night Prayer with you!