praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Hi all,

I’m 16 and very new to all this, so if these questions have rather obvious answers, I apologize. I’d like to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours and I’ve been using the prayers from the Divine Office website ( I’ve found a few other resources on how to pray the LotH and I’ve been stumbling my way through, but I still have a few questions.

  1. First of all, how does the Office of Readings fit into everything? When do you do that part?
  2. The invitatory is supposed to be said before the first hour you pray each day, right?
  3. What exactly is the antiphon?
  4. For the daytime prayers, do you pray one of the psalms at each time, or all three at all times?
  5. Are you supposed to sing the hymn…? What about the canticle? If so, how?
  6. Has anyone used the Universalis app? I’ve heard Universalis doesn’t use the standard prayers or something; is that true? If so, should I not use that app?
  7. Probably most important – how do you turn these into real prayer, rather than just reading the words? I get confused in a lot of the psalms and it seems like I end up just reading them, rather than comprehending and actually praying.

Even if you can only answer one or two of these, I’d really appreciate it. Any other advice on praying the LotH would be awesome, too; I really have no clue what I’m doing. Thank you so much!


Anytime during the day, including after Vespers the day before (from what I understand). Personally, I combine it with morning prayer.

Yes/No. :slight_smile: If you start the day with the OoR, then yes you start with the Invitatory. If you start off with Morning Prayer, then it can be said or it can be omitted. Your choice.

An antiphon is prayed before/after each Psalm or Canticle. It’s an aid to praying the LOTH. You can see no. 113 in the GILOTH for details.

Neither. You pray the Psalms of the day at one of the 3 hours, and the Complementary Psalms at the other hours (they are found after Night Prayer in the 4 volume and before Night Prayer in the 1 volume Christian Prayer).

If you want. The 1 volume Christian Prayer has a section on singing/chanting. The answer to “how” is really however you want. There may be some arguments on whether Gregorian Chant is “better” than something more “freeform”, but when praying in private it is really up to you. As long as it is reverent (and I’m not going to try to define that, because that’ll get into a sidetrack argument), there isn’t a problem.

Universalis (the website) uses it’s own translation of the Psalms, but the purchased version has the Grail Psalms (the same as the LOTH). The readings are from the Jerusalem Bible, while (in the US/Canada/some others) use the New American Bible.
As long as you are under no obligation to say the LOTH, you may use Universalis, or even a prayer inspired by the LOTH such as daily prayers from Magnificat. If you want, you can say everything from the Psalter if you wanted to.

It can take a while. It might not come immediately. The idea isn’t to “ram through the prayer” either. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. If you have a thought in the middle of a Psalm, you can stop and think for a while. If you need to say a line and then take a few seconds to reflect, then do that.

It takes a while to get used to the language. It’s very symbolic and filled with rich imagery. The biggest thing is not to get frustrated. If you get a book, take some time to get familiar with it; just spend some time flipping through it.

Try to get into a rhythm if you can, since the LOTH is very conducive to that. So wake up, pray Morning Prayer. Right before supper, pray Evening Prayer. Play around with the times until you find a time that feels natural. There’s no pressure.

You got a lot of good answers in the previous post but I can’t help chiming in.

I usually pray the Office of Readings by itself in the afternoon or combined with Evening Prayer. I recommend a time when you have time to focus on the readings.

The Invitatory should be prayed before the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer, whichever you start with. If you only say later prayers (eg, only Evening Prayer), then the Invitatory is omitted.

For the Daytime Prayers, the psalms of the day are traditionally used for Midday Prayer and the Complementary Psalms are used for the other times; that’s usually how I do it. However, that’s only a tradition/habit and the psalms of the day can be used for any of the three hours.

The LOTH does take some getting used to, but it’s worth the effort. I felt like I really had to make an effort for the first 6 to 9 months. I kept forgetting stuff, I had to focus a lot on the organization and page-turning, and I often didn’t feel prayerful. But the more I do it the more it feels like true prayer. I’m in my fourth year now (I think), and I love it more and more.

Also, I recommend that you get a copy of the St Joseph’s guide for whichever version you’re using, if you’re going to be using a book. It gives the page numbers for all the different parts for every hour, and my guide was immensely helpful to me when I was just starting out.

Good luck, and I hope you love it!

Also, did you know there’s a group here on CAF that discusses the LOTH? Come join us!

I also have a couple simple questions about LOTH that I didn’t find clear in the general instructions.

There is an italicized sentence after the introduction in the Intercessions. Am I supposed to recite that sentence aloud, or is that just there for guidance?

After each psalm and canticle I recite the Glory Be. Should the associated antiphon be repeated after this as well? I understand that it is used after each strophe of the psalm in group recitation, but I’m not sure about individual practice.


The italicized sentence is the response. I think that it’s required after each petition if you’re praying in a group but it’s optional if you’re praying alone. I pray alone but I do use it (say it out loud) after every petition.

For Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the Office of Readings, the antiphon should be repeated for each psalm (after the Glory Be). For Daytime Prayer, it varies depending on the time of year; during Ordinary Time, each psalm has its own antiphon and it should be repeated. During special times (Lent, Advent, etc), there is only one antiphon for each daytime hour and the antiphon is used at the beginning of the psalms and then at the end of all three psalms but not between psalms.

I hope that helps!

Thank you so much; that helps a lot! :thumbsup:

Next question – are there different versions of the LotH books? What is a good one to use? And do you know of anywhere I could get my hands on the 4-volume set at a relatively reasonable price?

I prayed today’s evening prayer with a podcast put out by the Divine Office. Have any of you used this? I found it to be rather distracting, honestly… I just felt like I was listening, rather than praying.

Oh, and are you supposed to pray the LotH out-loud, or doesn’t it matter?

Thanks again for all your help!

There are different versions. For a 1-volume book there’s Christian Prayer, Shorter Christian Prayer (which omits some prayers), and the Daughters of St Paul edition of Christian Prayer (and there may be more than I can’t think of right now). They each have good points. I have the 4-volume set and the Daughters of St Paul 1-volume version and I love them both. I especially like the typesetting in the St Paul edition; it is so much easier to read and follow. There are St Joseph guides for the 4-volume set and for the regular and large-print Christian Prayer. When I bought my 4-volume set, Amazon was the cheapest I could find. And you can buy the books one at a time if you need to.

I have used the Divine Office podcasts a few times, and I also felt more like a listener than a participant. I do use that site for the text, though. It doesn’t have all the Daytime Hours, but it’s good for the other hours.

I pray everything out loud except for the long readings in the Office of Readings, because then it feels much more like praying and not just reading. However, as noted above, there are a lot of options for those of us who are not obligated to pray the LOTH and who use it for personal devotions and I think praying silently is fine.

Again, I hope this helps! I hear does do good podcasts (I’ve only listed to bits and pieces). You could try Praystation Portable, which only has 1 priest speaking (that’s actually how I learned to pray the LOTH).


Two more questions, sorry:

I’ve been praying most of the hours for the past three or four days, and a lot of the psalms are the same. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be this way, right? And I’m just curious, why?

Shoot, I’m blanking on my other question right now; I’ll post if I think of it. :o

Sometimes it feels a bit more like a chore than prayer, but I think I should probably give it a chance…

thank you,

A chore because it is penitential. Grace sustains us. Enter the paschal mystery.
At 5:00am the Holy Spirit reminds you that Jesus was tried illegally by the Sanhedron. Say the Invitatory and read the office of the day.
At sunrise, the resurrection, be filled with joy and give him thanks and praise. Say morning prayer.
At 9:00am Jesus condemned, insulted, scourged.
At 12:00 nailed to the cross.
At 3:00 gives up the Ghost.
At 5:00 the mystery of the tomb.
At 7:00 or later Compline(bedtime) examine your conscience, enter your tomb, and trust in the Lord.

The form of the prayer is foreign at first. Its power will strengthen you. May God be with you.


Thank you, that reminds me of my other question – what times do you pray each hour? Can you work it in when you want, or is the standard what hazcompat posted?

I get up for work at 430 and I’m out the door by 5am. Get to work and I work. Get home around 430 and take kids to baseball, supper, etc. I don’t get totally done with my day until around 9 - 930. Then I pray the LOTH and study scripture or the Catechism etc. I typically pray the EP and NP at the same time. On weekends I pray the whole office throughout the day, especially in Church BEFORE Mass, not during Mass. Someone, a long time ago, told me that Jesus won’t be mad about something like that. The LOTH is the greatest - at least for me. For me, it was love at first sight - and I mean that. For me, the LOTH is perfect. I truly wish more people would participate eitheir communally or in private recitation. For a time, I lived near a Benedictine Monastery and they welcomed me and allowed me to participate during Vespers. I wish more churches in my area would have public LOTH/Divine Office at night. And, dare I say, I wish the my Pastor would ‘advertise’ this more often, well ever! Not sure why priests don’t talk about this aspect of our faith a little more, introduce people to it and let them ‘run with it’ - as I did. Yes - I’m a lay person. But then again, I wish there was ‘something’ out there, kind of like a bridge for us cradle Catholics- a small informal-ish program to help reinvigorate our faith, since it is typically decades between any form of official Catechitical instruction - did I spell that right?

Correction to this one. The italicized sentence is there only for meditation and as an aid to understanding the Psalm in light of the New Testament and Christologically. It is not to be recited, but only reflected on momentarily.

This is a most valid question, and there’s probably no one good answer. You have the right mindset, that is, the Psalms are prayer. And not only prayer, but prayer of the most excellent kind because these are inspired of the Holy Spirit and our Lord himself and his his apostles used them.

But the Psalms were also written in a particular time and culture and here the difficulty arises. There are a few things you could use to keep in mind though:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and help you before you begin the Office.
  • Make the dispositions of the Psalm your own. If it’s a Psalm of praise, try to excite in yourself an attitude of praise. If it’s one of anger, think of Holy Mother Church and how she is so hated in the world. If it’s one of penitence, excite contrition in yourself. If it’s a Psalm of thanksgiving, think of what blessings you can thank God for. If it’s talking of putting enemies to death, well, what enemy is there but the devil and our own sinful habits. If it’s talking about wicked men, think of those in the world who don’t love God and offer it for them in their name that they too may be saved.

When praying with the Hours, we should not be thinking about the technicalities of the Psalm but we can always apply them to any circumstance in our lives.

I think a great place to start is the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the hours, from n. 100 through 109. Here’s a quick link: III-I

But let’s be realistic. It’s not easy (but then, what thing worthwhile ever is?) and I find myself so annoyingly prone to distraction. But we ought to persevere. It’s great that you start the Office at an early age, and I must encourage you to never be discouraged. Just keep it up.

Since you’re praying online, the system is probably assembling everything for you.

The reason you’re seeing the same psalms for morning and evening prayer is because we are in the Octave of Easter, the 8 days from Easter Sunday through the Second Sunday of Easter. Because of the importance of the solemnity, Easter is “extended” throughout the 8 days. For the Octave, the psalms and antiphons of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are all that of Easter Sunday, hence the repitition. It will remain this way through this Sunday, after which we start with Week II of the Psalter.

Currently we’re in the Octave of Easter, so the same Psalms are prayed at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer from Easter Sunday until next Sunday (Divine Mercy Sunday). We even sing the Gloria at Mass all week!

Luckily, this only happens twice during the year with the other time being Christmas (although, the Octave of Christmas is a little different because there are several feasts during the Octave, while there are none during the Octave of Easter).

I think he means the italicized sentence in the Intercessions.

If I remember correctly, there are 2 ways to do the Intercessions when in a group. Either you alternate the lines (similar to the Psalms), or one person reads the intercessions and everyone says the response, which is the Italicized line (or something generic like “Lord hear our prayer”). I know that does it the second way, treating the italicized line as the response. That’s how I’ve always done it.

The daytime prayers are traditionally done at 9, 12, and 3. The Office of Reading (when it was called Matins before the reform) was traditionally said at 4am (I believe). I’m not sure what the official time for Lauds (MP) or Vespers (EP) or Compline (NP) were.

As the modern Office stands, you have some flexibility. OoR can be prayed at any time during the day (as said before). The rest should be prayed at the time the prayer’s name suggests. Morning prayer in the morning, evening prayer in the evening (this corresponds to after 4pm; the earliest time you could have a Saturday evening Mass for Sunday) , Night Prayer at night, etc.

So if it’s 12:30, you can still pray the Midday Prayer, as it’s still midday (actually, depending on where you are in the world, 12:30 is probably closer to “solar noon” then noon is because of DST).

Ah, yes, sorry; my speed reading failed me. You are correct.

What I do here is read the entire introduction with the italicized response, and just recite the prayers the follow without repeating. This is permitted.

The only time when I actually repeat the italicized response is when the italicized response is actually printed repeatedly (Common of Martyrs, IIRC).

Sorry for the confusion.

Thank you all! You’ve been really helpful and I understand the LotH much better now. :slight_smile:

Thanks again,

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