I’ve been praying the LOTH for almost two years now, and it’s getting to the point where I’m feeling drawn to exploring the more contemplative side of this practice. Do you recite the LOTH on a regular basis? If so, do you incorporate mental prayer into your recitations? What sort of mental prayer do you include, and how do you do so? And do you do this for every office, or just for a part of the day? Thank you for sharing your insights!
According to St Teresa of Avila if you are thinking about what you are saying when you pray then you are engaged in mental prayer. I don’t get to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day but when I do I try to have some time for meditation afterwards.
Me too. I just started the LOTH and like you I tried to think about what I prayed coz I don’t want it to be meaningless words or for the sake of doing it.
I pray the LOTH and love it. It’s more vocal prayer than mental prayer but yes like poche says you can think about what you are praying and it be ‘more mental prayer’ like St Theresa of Avila said. I am no expert on such things, but if you want to practice true mental prayer I’d do meditation after the Divine office. It is up to you though, but Divine office (LOTH - I merely say Divine office as it is called that in England where I currently reside) is a communal prayer of the church and said in union with the church even if you are saying it alone so really it’s not changed as such. Though please don’t take my comments as anything more than my opinion. I notice this is often the case on this forum. I think the Divine office is wonderful and it’s lovely it is inspiring you to greater prayer. I’d suggest meditation and/or Lectio Divina perhaps following on from the Divine office but afterwards, maybe you could use one of the Psalms or canticles that inspired you as your material ?Anyway just an idea. God bless you.
This wouldn’t work if I were praying in community, but since I pray alone I feel free to stop when something strikes me and spend some time with it. Sometimes a word, a phrase, or an image will almost jump off the page. I take it as a hint from God and spend some time with it before moving on with the rest of the prayers.
Another option is to follow the LOTH with some time for lectio divina.
The Liturgy of the Hours is primarily vocal prayer (and note that the highest forms of prayer in the Church are vocal) but the Instructions also remind us to keep harmony between mind and voice. With practice you will attune yourself to what God is saying through the prayer.
I’ve done this for over a decade now, and others twice that time or more. They will attest as I do that the riches of the Scriptures are inexhaustible, and God speaks in many ways many times, with different insights and messages even when you pray a familiar Psalm.
I have been doing LOTH for many years, and is part of my formation to the Permanent Diaconate (to pray morning and evening prayers). When we are at class in the evenings, we always pray it as a group. Also, when we are on retreat, we pray it as a group. As part of that group prayer, we normally will have one of the 3rd or 4th year guys in formation lead a short reflection on either the psalms or reading for that hour.
When I do the LOTH privately, I will also pause after the reading and reflect upon the Word that I have just read and allow the Holy Spirit talk with me. I also will pause during the intercessions and pray for all the people who have asked for my prayers, and to contemplate on what God is asking of me, and for His strength to follow His will.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with exploring other methods of prayer either outside of the LOTH or within it. I think God is pleased that you are taking the time to talk with Him and to include Him in your prayer life. As one deacon told me many years ago… as long as you are trying, there is no way to mess up prayer and all prayer is good.
God bless you,
It depends which breviary I’m using. If I’m using the monastic, I’m more of a prayer machine: 4 psalms and an OT canticle at Lauds, 4 psalms at Vespers, and in the schema I use, some of the Vespers psalms are very long. I also chant the prayers. And Vigils (Monastic Office of Readings) is much longer with 6 psalms.
When I do the LOTH, also chanted (in Latin), I find it’s a much lighter office but on the flip side, it’s more open to a contemplative approach. I start 5 minutes before the Office with some Eastern meditation to clear the mind (I use bells and my calendar app for this), then the opening verse, and then the hymn etc. My practice is to chant, on the Gregorian modes, each element as a unit (hymn, psalm, canticle), then I silently read in French what I just chanted. So, for the hymn, each psalm/canticle. I do the readings and intercessions in French. It almost makes the Office like a combination of lectio, the Divine Office and Eastern meditation where the mechanical chanting of the psalm in Latin becomes the “mantra” to prepare one to receive the lectio (psalms and canticles). It’s nice and unrushed. I use Les Heures Grégoriennes for the daytime Offices, and LIturgia Horarum for the Office of Readings.
Of course, I’m retired, so I am free to experiment a bit. But I do prefer the LOTH for my purposes as a layman because it lends itself better to this meditative approach. Also even retired, I can be pressed for time once in a while, and I can knock off 10 minutes or so by praying at a more rapid pace, leaving out the meditation. Overall, including the 5 minute pre-Office meditation, Lauds takes me 30 minutes, and Vespers about 25 minutes. A big beef I have with the LOTH is that Vespers is too short, usually the psalmody at mid-day prayer is longer; they should switch them around. I suggested it to the Pope but never got a reply
Other practices is times of silence after the readings (in French), and private intercessions after I’ve chanted through the main intercessions.
I’ve been praying the LOTH more seriously since I entered oblate formation in 2002, and I dabbled a bit with it a year or two before that.
And of course when I’m praying with the monks, I go with the flow
I’m actually quite surprised he hasn’t set up a new dicastery for your expertise in prayer. I’ll mention that the next time I see him…
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses! In regards to those of you who suggested adding a specific period outside of the LOTH dedicated to mental prayer: I’ve been feeling a pull in this direction myself. However, the biggest “con” for me in this is feeling like if I’m not open to mental prayer during my recitation of the Office, then I’m not taking full advantage of an incredible opportunity to spend time with the Lord through His Word. That being said, I DO see the value in what you’re saying.
In terms of those of you who offered suggestions about mental prayer DURING the LOTH, this is the summary I came up with based on your contributions:
- Recollection before starting to say an Office.
- Being mindful of what one is saying while praying an Office.
- Chanting the Offices (and following up with a silent rereading of each part along the way)
- Pausing in the “Sacred Silences” along the way.
- Lectio Divina based on what grabs you from an Office.
- Including personal requests in the Intercessions of MP/EP.
This is all great stuff! In addition to confirming some of my hunches about this, your contributions have given me much additional food for thought. At this point in the discussion, there are a few follow-up questions I have:
@poche: Can you recommend a writing by St. Teresa where she discusses how paying attention to what your saying is a form of mental prayer? I’d love to read more about what she has to say about this!
@OraLabora: Would you please share more about your experience with chant bringing out the more contemplative side of the LOTH? Also, in terms of Eastern meditation, what form do you practice in order to prepare yourself for saying an Office?
And I’d still love to hear whatever thoughts other folks might have about these matters!
Chanting the Office in Latin, on the Gregorian modes, requires some concentration to get it right, because of the rules of accentuation that dictate where the melodic changes occur. So that “prepares” me in a way, as it forces me to occupy my thoughts with getting the chanting right, and that tends to chase away all other thoughts. I also prefer to use a psalter that isn’t pointed for chant (italics and bold to indicate accents and melodic change points) to foster the need for concentration. So the chanting sweeps out unrelated thoughts, and better prepares me to absorb the psalm when I read it. Does it always work? No, sometimes the random thoughts creep back in when you start reading the psalm. But it does help.
For the preparatory meditation, I use a bell 5 minutes before the Office to mark the start of the meditation, and a second one, the start of the Office. In those 5 minutes, I repeat a mantra in the Eastern manner. But before anyone criticizes, my mantra is firmly Christian:
Blessed are You, O Lord God,
who have helped me and consoled me. (RB chapter 35 cf. Psalm 85(86) v. 17)
in French (it rattles off better in French than English, in mantra form). It’s the verse that monks say every Sunday when they enter into refectory service for the week (serving the meals to the community).
I’ve been praying the LOTH’s since becoming a Discalced Carmelite, Secular, over 25 years now. My wife is also an OCDS member, and we pray the LOTH;s Evening Prayer(Vespers) together.
My morning prayer consist of LOTH’s Morning Prayer, followed by Centering Prayer(Contemplative Prayer)
Practicing living a Contemplative life, makes all forms of prayer contemplative. We learn to be consciously aware of being in God’s presence, as He dwells within ourselves, but in everyone else as well. As St John of the Cross taught, we see God in everyone and everything.
FYI, St Teresa of Avila didn’t advise just to pay attention to the words of the prayer being said, but to be aware of who it is you’re praying to, Jesus Christ. This is what she meant by Mental Prayer. Also, she wrote, when you are praying to the King, keep in mind that He brings His court with Him, i.e. the Blessed Mother, the Saints and Angels. They pray with you as you pray.
We know what you meant, but . . .
Gotta love auto-correct some times… at least it’s good for a laugh. At least it didn’t say “your mother wears army boots”…
Here is a link to The Way of Perfection. Chapter 22 begins her discourse on prayer. I think you will find it very helpful.
@OraLabora: Thank you for expanding on your experience. If I’m reading you correctly, I’ve actually had a few experiences along the same lines as a chorister. I have no musical talent or understanding, but I can learn a song by ear if I can find a recording in my range and sing along with it over and over again. Many times the hymns we sing are adaptations of passages from Scripture (and of course there’s the Responsorial Psalm), and I find that my times rehearsing these songs really makes a difference in my relationship to the lyrics, and changes the way that I relate to these readings when I come across them in my own studies. And we DO have to pay more attention to the actual words coming out of our mouths when we sing than we do when we’re just speaking. I’m not sure that this is along the lines of what you’re saying, but this is where my mind goes in response to what you’ve shared. (Thanks again!)
And to you and @JimR-OCDS in re: “Eastern meditation”/Centering Prayer: I’ve gathered that this can be a bit of a controverial subject around here, but I don’t have a problem with these practices, and I’ve actually been feeling a pull towards the Jesus Prayer as of late. I also find it interesting that the two of you use a similar practice at opposite ends of your prayer periods.
Amen! I still have plenty of journeying to do on the purgative way
Thanks for your clarification (and reminder)!
Centering Prayer is not Eastern Meditation nor does it come from Eastern Religion, but is from the rich tradition in Christianity, going back to the 4th Century Mystics, like Abba Isaac and St John Cassian
There has been much much misinformation about Centering Prayer in this forum, as people confuse it with Centering, from the New Age groups
Before being called Centering Prayer, it was called, “Prayer of Quiet, or Quiet Prayer.”
From the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia;
Prayer of Quiet
I’m not going to debate about it, but if you want more information, feel free to PM me.
Centered in Christ
I’ve felt called to research this form of prayer in the past, and I ended up coming across a lot of your (great) defenses of this practice. “Much much misinformation” seems like a bit of an understatement!
Thanks for this link!
Thanks for the offer! I’d love to chat more about this privately (but to hear about your experience, not to debate the practice).
You can go here for how to do Centering Prayer from Fr Thomas Keating RIP
Yes that’s it exactly, and Gregorian psalmody even more so due to the melodic formulas being built around the accents. You need to understand the mechanics; each mode has its own formula built around 1 or two accents; and for the 1 accent formulas, 1, 2 or 3 preparation syllables. The cesura in the middle of a verse serves more than a meditative purpose, it allows one to count syllables from the last accent (for preparation syllables) or identify the last two accents and if needed, displace the second-to-last one if there’s 4 syllables between them (a max of 3 being allowed).
It all sounds pretty arcane, but it does work. And if I’m going to sing with the community, I need to know how it works. It was tough at first, but then it “clicked” and I can almost do it on auto-pilot now.
But then every musical formula has its quirks, and requires that we pay attention and eliminate distractions.