Liturgy of the Hours


Does anyone pray this way - either in full (matins all the way through nightime - every day) or abreviated? I need structure in my prayer life and this seems like it would be a good way to start. Comments?


I have been thinking the same thing too lately... definitely will watch this thread! Some personal advice about these prayers would be great.


I think the Liturgy of the Hours is the best prayer out there - and I definitely encourage you to start.

I myself started for the exact same reason you suggested - I felt that I needed more structure in my prayer life, and it seemed to me that you could hardly get more structured than the Hours.

Of course, I haven't succeeded yet in praying them the way that I want to pray them - that is: all seven hours, seven days a week. But I'm getting there, and I know that praying them has helped me immeasurably to grow in my spiritual life, even if I don't pray them with the rigor that the monks do.

Just a few of my thoughts on why the Liturgy of the Hours is so great:

First of all, especially if you also go to Mass daily, you will find that you become much more aware of and appreciative of the liturgical seasons. To really learn the lessons that the Church is trying to teach through the liturgy - that is the Mass and the Hours - you have to listen and pray to an entire year (well - you have to listen and pray for an entire lifetime - but perhaps you get my point).

Second of all, the communion of saints. When I pray the Hours, I have a very strong sense of being tied to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ - all of those alive today and praying the hours throughout the world and all of those who have come before us who prayed almost the exact same way for the past 2,000 years. Exactly the same as participating in Mass. When we go to Mass, we are right there beside every Catholic participating in every Mass being offered today, alongside every Catholic who ever has participated in the Masses said for 2,000 years, right alongside the angels & saints worshiping in heaven. The communion of saints is amazing stuff.

Third of all, the psalms are marvelous! The more I pray them, the more I want to pray them. I've heard it said that the psalms describe every circumstance we face in this life and I think it's true. And what's wonderful about the Hours is that those psalms have been ordered in such a way that they match up with the liturgical cycle - in other words, if the Mass reading for the day is sorrowful, the psalms in the Hours will complement the readings. But also, they are cyclical - basically every month you will have prayed the entire psalter. Of course, you could just read the book of Psalms once a month, beginning to end, and do the same thing ... but it doesn't have the same sense of continuity, order, and the knowledge that you are praying the same psalms on the same day at the same time as all of your brothers and sisters.

Oh, dear - I seem to be getting carried away - long story short - I heartily recommend praying the Hours!

Don't get discouraged, though! Personally, I first got the notion to start praying the Hours about seven years ago. And I started, discovered it was a little complicated, got discouraged, dropped it altogether for months. Then I started again, stopped again. And on and on - only in the past couple of years have I been at all consistent. And like I said, I still haven't attained my goal of saying every hour every day.

Check out some books on how to pray the Hours - those are very helpful in overcoming the page turning intimidation (some people get intimidated by the ribbons - having to flip from this section to that section) but it really doesn't take too long to get used to that.

One book in particular that I would recommend is "The School of Prayer: An Introduction to the Divine Office for All Christians" by John Brook, published by The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. He does a fantastic job of not only teaching you the practicalities, but also of explaining the spirituality of the Hours, their historical context, etc.

Remember First Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray without ceasing."

And, as today happens to be Thanksgiving, may I also point out First Thessalonians 5:18: "In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."

Pax et bonum!


I would love to, but my job has such irregular shifts that it would be impossible for me to do it regularly.


One of the suggestions from Cursillo on developing a prayer life is to start slowly. Think about prayer much in the same way you would starting an exercise program. If you go all out at the beginning, you may become frustrated, burned out, and not continue. On the other hand, if your start slowly you can add to your routine.
Choose one of the hours, such as Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, as your starting point. After praying Morning Prayer for a while, as an example, you might add Evening Prayer. As my spiritual director pointed out, do not feel guilty if you remain limited to the single hour. As laypersons, each of us has work schedules and family obligations that affect how much time we can devote to prayer. Choosing at least one hour will definitely add structure to your prayer life.


There are various versions for lay people that beginners can use:

Christian Prayer

Shorter Christian Prayer

Magnificat Magazine which has abbreviated Morning and Evening Prayer, the Daily Mass Readings, Meditations, and more. I highly recommend it for busy people who want to pray with the Church.


My introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours came during an Easter retreat. The Marianists used the single volume Christian Prayer. It contains the four week psalter, but does not have the non-Scriptural readings for the Office of Readings. I substitute a devotional book of choice, such as Confessions of St. Augustine or Life of a Soul, reading a single page or chapter. I remember more of what I have read this way.

When I had a car, I kept a copy of Shorter Christian Prayer in the glove compartment. This allowed me to pray Evening Prayer even if I was not home. Later I carried it in my backpack, again for easy accessibility when not home. I am now in the Middle East. The only version I brought with me was the one volume Christian Prayer. Shorter Christian Prayer only has Morning and Evening Prayer without any of the Daytime Hours. It also has a single Night Prayer while Christian Prayer has a week of Night Prayer.

Magnificat is rather expensive. It contains the daily Mass readings, shortened versions of morning and evening prayer, and a daily life of a saint. It is a beautiful magazine. If you already have Christian Prayer, you can save money with God’s Word Today with the Mass Supplement.


[quote="DebChris, post:7, topic:177584"]

Magnificat is rather expensive. It contains the daily Mass readings, shortened versions of morning and evening prayer, and a daily life of a saint. It is a beautiful magazine. If you already have Christian Prayer, you can save money with God's Word Today with the Mass Supplement.


Magnificat is really only a dollar a week, when you break it down. And I like the Gospel meditations from saints, popes, and our best inspired authors. I find it more mature in content that God's Word Today. And having the Mass readings in the same volume is handy too. It all depends on what you are looking for. ;)


The Magnificat has a great cover too. I also like having the daily Mass reading available as well as the meditations and lives of the saints. I am glad that God’s Word Today can now be bought with the readings included. A dollar a week can still be out of many people’s budgets. I was unemployed for a very long time. Working overseas means that either magazine is outside my budget due to postal costs (no book rate available) plus the slowness of the mail system. I would agree that Magnificat can serve as an introduction to the LOTH. Stateside, friends gave me their extra copies of Magnificat. As I stated in my post, it is a very beautiful magazine. It might be worth the cost if I didn’t already have Christian Prayer. The Morning and Evening Prayer in Magnificat are a bit shorter than Christian Prayer. My stateside parish provided God’s Word Today free of charge, although without the daily Mass readings included. There are other sources for the daily Mass readings, but it is still nice to have them together with the daily reflections.
For daily Mass attendees, both Magnificat and God’s Word Today are portable. Magnificat might fit in a purse or pocket a little easier.


***Start with the Morning and Evening Prayers.

You do not need to say the entire Office at first.***


The prayer book I have is a little one called "A Catholic Book of Hours and Other Devotions". The first section has all the hours to use every day (I think). The next part is broken down by days of the week. I know there is a much more "involved" version consisting of two or three large volumes that are very expensive. Does this go through every day of the liturgical year? Should I shell out the money for them? What is the difference between the two versions?


Many religious orders, such as the one which introduced me to the Liturgy of the Hours, simply use the one volume Christian Prayer. As already mentioned, the single volume only has a few of the daily non-Scriptural readings. The single volume does contain the four week psalter as well as the prayers for feast days. It also has the Office of Readings.
What is your budget? How long do you plan to live where you currently are. Packing to work overseas meant limiting my baggage weight to 100 lbs, thus making the four volumes impractical.
Shorter Christian Prayer contains the psalter for morning and evening prayer only plus a single night prayer. There is no music notation for the hymns.
I glued the Prayer of Zechariah and the Magnificat from the cover of a Magnificat that a friend had given me to the back cover of my Christian Prayer. It makes the single volume easier to use.


As a lay person you are not expected to pray all the hours. As DebChris pointed out, even religious orders don’t necessarily use the 4 volume set, but use Christian Prayer instead.

Christian Prayer will give you the most bang for your buck. Even with it, though, you may pray only Morning and Evening Prayer, reciting only one Psalm instead of the full 3 and still be in line with the prayer life of the Church. It’s up to you how much more you want to do, but don’t do more out of scrupulosity.

The important thing is to be as consistent as you can, allowing for your state in life and the time you have to reasonably do it.


I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours for about a year and a half using Shorter Christian Prayer. I pray the morning and evening prayers (usually). I can't tell you amazing stories of what it has done in my life, but I can tell you, that the words of the psalms are almost a part of me, at this point. Morning and Evening is about all I can manage at this time of my life.

Shorter Christian Prayer has the prayers for morning, evening, and night prayers. It does get a little repetitious during Advent and Lent because only one week of readings is provided for each, so I did acquire a Christian Prayer volume to use during those seasons. HOWEVER, I am still doing the bulk of my prayer from SCP.

It is SO much more user-friendly than the others and I like that i have one copy beside my bed and another in my purse. I found that with SCP, after a brief explanation from a Poor Clare friend about how to figure out what week we were in, I was able to open it to the Ordinary and understand how to pray it immediately. After I had been praying with SCP for about a year, I got the volume of CP and still needed her to show me what to do and where things were located in the volume. A lot of flipping in the volumes.

My 2 cents.


Christian Prayer doesn’t have enough ribbons;) I have the Invitational Psalm marked plus the day of the week that I am praying for Morning and Evening Prayer and the Sunday in the Liturgical Calendar. I also use holy cards for other places where I might be flipping. I have one with the Salve Regina to mark night prayer, another for the Office of Readings and the daily list of scriptural readings. Shorter Christian Prayer already has the Prayer of Zechariah and the Magnificat inside its covers. Gluing these prayers to the inside cover cuts down the necessity of flipping pages. In the front of my Christian Prayer I have the pages from True Devotion that contain the prayers for the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary which I pray after Morning Prayer.
What I have seen both with the Marianists and the Trappists at Conyers is these orders pray Morning Prayer and continue straight into the daily Mass. The concluding prayer of the day is also the opening prayer for Mass.
My Spiritual Director pointed to the fact that the Liturgy of the Hours honors the hours of the day while Mass is outside of time. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is one way that the Church prays without ceasing. If I miss praying at 6am, I will pray at 7am. It’s 6am somewhere:) and my prayer is joined to that of the Church regardless of time zone.


DebChris says-"-Christian Prayer doesn’t have enough ribbons"that is not really a problem I have found.I use the four volumn Divine Office books and I find that though I use the ribbons to set up,I put my favorite prayer cards in there as well-sure they might and sometimes fall out, but I find it helps with my devotions ;as the book itself is rather funtional --as holy pictures included in the printing would make even the great one volumn ones too big.For most lay people the one volumn ones are enought,I personally only pray the morning and evening prayer.It is only when I am on a retreat that I pray the full office of the day.
The best advise for finding your way around the set up for the day ideally, is to pray it with someone who is experienced in using it.(parish priest/sister,consecrated lay person)About a year ago I was fortunate to attend a retreat by a Communita (Sons and Daughters of God) priest.There were about 100 lay people there-mostly members(I was a guest, as a friend was being consecrated to God in that group)Fr.Serafino ended up having to show them what pages to set up, as it was a saints day within the Advent Season.It showed me that even after at least a years’ long private use of The Divine Office “morning and evening prayer”-most stuggled to get it correct!It is not a big deal as God is pleased with our efforts(By the way I was impressed with them!)
While it is really good to read the delight that has been expressed in this thread about being able to pray The Divine Office .I often find that I am in praying it with dryness and distraction.But as the priest explained to me when I started it ,that it being The Official Prayer of The Catholic Church,it is not my personal prayer as such.But somewhere in the Universal Church the feelings described in Davids’Psalms will match the situation.(though occasionally it does resonate within-“Alone with none but Thee my God I journey on my way”-hymn.The theme of each psalm is described before each one-so at least there is a guide there.Well worth the effort and it is something the The Fathers’of Vatican II had envisaged that us lay people would take up this Hymn of Praise,especially on Sundays and Feastdays at least."To Him be Hightest Glory and Honour.Amen


Just on a practical note, if the ribbons aren’t enough to help you find which page you should be on, you can use sticky tabs (the kind that easily come off) to mark the pages you will need most often. I use them in Christian Prayer for the Morning, Evening, and Night canticles and other such references. Even though I know certain daily canticles/prayers by heart, I always look at the words to keep my mind from wandering–something many people have a problem with when praying the same words on a daily basis. And the suggestion to pray along with someone who knows how to use Christian Prayer or the larger 4 book set is a very good one. There’s nothing like tactile contact and “doing” to learn just about anything.


I agree with Pachomius, praying the LOTH in conjunction with attending daily Mass will make the liturgical year profoundly meaningful. If you intend to use the four-volume set, do take the time to read the little pamphlets that accompany the set. These pamphlets give you a basic outline for each of the prayers, print the readings that you recite most often (for example, the Invitatory Psalm) and can help guide you on your way in the beginning.

You should also purchase the small “St. Joseph Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours” published for each year. It’s a small pamphlet published annually that provides you with the page numbers the different prayers, psalms, antiphons, readings, etc. for each day will be found. Your local Catholic bookstore will likely carry it. They are usually less than US$5.00 each (I just bought mine for 2010 this weekend, and I paid US$1.50).

When you are just starting out, you might want to double-check that you are using the correct prayers by visiting They have the texts of the Offices for each day.

It can seem complicated at first, and I do suggest beginning just with Morning and Evening prayer. Once you become familiar with the location of the different portions of the prayers, you will have no difficulty following along. I encourage you to begin this ancient prayer and persevere until you become more comfortable with it. I think you will find it to be a source of profound blessings! It will most definitely bring structure to your prayer life.


I have wanted to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for some time now but the books necessary are so expensive! I mean on Aquinas and More, the cheapest set is $149. :eek: I live on a budget and certainly cannot afford that!


Question - a couple of people have said that Shorter Christian Prayer has only one night prayer as opposed to a full week's worth. But my copy of it has a different psalm and scripture reading for each night of the week. How is that only one prayer? I haven't read the night prayers in the full LOTH so I don't have anything to compare it to.

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