Fixed-hour prayer comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of praying at certain hours of each day. “Seven times a day do I praise you,” was the heart cry of the Psalmist. Since Jesus and His disciples were Jewish, this was their custom as well.
The hours of six and nine in the morning, noon, three in the afternoon, sunset, and bedtime were when people stopped their activities and prayed. In Acts, when the disciples were gathered for prayer on the day of Pentecost, it was at 9 o’clock or “at the third hour of the day.” In Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon.
The early church continued the practice of fixed-hour prayer until the “daily office” eventually became the observance of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican branches of Christianity. Recently it has been rediscovered by believers from every tradition, including myself.
For several years I have used Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings From the Northumbria Communityas my prayer book. This two-inch thick book became the anchor in my journey of discovering Celtic Christianity and the love the Celts had for infusing the daily with the holy.
Currently I find that Morning Prayer and Compline (prayer before bed) are my “keeping of the hours.” Sometimes I pause for Midday prayer over a quiet lunch. These prayer times weave a thread of peace throughout my day securing together my to-do list and interruptions. I find them a launching pad for spontaneous worship and intercession when my prayer engines are a little slow powering up.
“My dear ones, O God, bless Thou and keep, in every place where they are,” lends itself to intercession for my family scattered throughout the county.
“Circle me, Lord, keep protection near and danger afar. Circle me, Lord, keep light near and darkness afar. Circle me, Lord, keep peace within; keep evil out,” blankets me on a cold evening before bed.
What routine of prayer marks the hours of your day? I would love to hear from you in the “Leave a Comment” section below.