Fixed-hour Prayer

Fixed-hour Prayer

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.

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17 Responses to Fixed-hour Prayer

  1. At least 8 times during daylight and a few times at night, I snuggle down with my three-week old baby boy to nourish his little body. This physical slowing down reminds me to pray. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me and have often been surprised at the topics and people that are brought to mind as I sit and intercede. I am grateful to my aunt who gave me this advice when I was pregnant with my first child, that every time I sat down to feed my baby, to spend time in prayer.

  2. Dani, that is an awesome attitude and practice to cultivate. I know that I hear a lot from young mothers who feel bad because they can no longer have their daily devotions with the demands of a little one around. Fitting prayer into your time of feeding the baby is a perfect example of living the holy in the daily. Thank you for sharing.

  3. There are times during the day that automatically my mind goes to prayer..If I am doing dishes I am praying..usually for my family. If I am cooking my mind goes to those less fortunate, those imprisoned for their faith. If I am going to bed my mind goes to thoes that are struggling..going through hard times. Because those are the times that I have prayed in the past there is an ingrained thing in my mind…pray. My morning..that cup of tea in silence and solitude unhurried to just wait on the Lord and listen, is the time of day that guards my peace and keeps me anchored. My life is different than it would be without those times of awareness of my need for the My Lord, my thankfulnes toward Him and the protection He is in my life and the life of my loved ones.

  4. I love your words and how you can express your thoughts. I’m happy for people who can pray in their individual ways.
    What about those of us who have prayed for “protection near and danger afar” and that prayer wasn’t answered? My idea of how to pray has been shattered, and I’m struggling to find a way to pray that feels authentic after what I’ve been through.

  5. Aside from the practice of it, I appreciate the peaceful confidence this concept brings to us. God knows and longs for us in the stillness. How I long to receive more deeply the presence of Him much more than I do right now…my air, my strength, my peace, my Love.

  6. Hi Donna,

    Thank you for your comment. It is one that comes from a grieving heart and I have not walked your journey. So I can only reply from what the standpoint of how Scripture and my journey has shaped my beliefs.

    Finding a way to pray when your heart has been shattered is something only you can find, for that is such an individual and holy place to be before the Lord. Also scary, because God no longer seems safe.

    For me, looking to the ancients, like the Celtic Christians, has provided a safe place for me. (Though that doesn’t mean it will for others.) I’ve learned to pray that request for “protection near and danger afar” requires that I know that life might go another direction. Especially after so many years of ministry and family and finding that not everything I pray goes in the direction I have requested of the Lord.

    That knowing keeps me in the place of servant/learner/friend/bride and out of the stuff that ultimately is God’s business. For many years I used prayer as a control stick in my journey instead of letting God be really in control. (I didn’t like how things went sometimes when he was in control.)

    I guess I have been learning, and still am learning, that asking is not controling. God is still God and he allows some things to happen that I am not in agreement with. Why he allows it, I don’t know. But I do want to grow from it, because there is something eternal going on that I am not able to see at this point in my journey.

    I think that those who have gone before us knew this concept much better then our generation. Most people who have walked the earth expected there to be lack of provisions and were thankful for the little they had. Babies died, moms died in childbirth, and so a man might have several wives over his life time. The average age life span was 30 years, which meant that 70 percent died young.

    The Celtic Christians lived in such a time and still prayed, even more then us, for protection. They had a wider kingdom view then we do, however. Heaven was just a step away to them. The reality of Jesus and heaven was seeped into their daily walk. Somehow, we have missed what they embraced. I want to recapture that in my journey.

    So how does knowing that there will be shattering moments/hours/years in my life link me to Jesus in such a way that He becomes more of a reality in my life? I don’t know, but I am finding out.

    Praying for you still and holding you in my heart. I pray that no one has to go through the shattering that you have had to go through. But I am watching you and learning from you — you are a good teacher, my friend.

  7. My first prayer of the day comes when my head is still on my pillow. I’m grateful for the breath of life and another day of opportunities. I thank God for giving my mom, who has cancer, yet another day and I ask that it be a good one for her. After this, the next time I formally pause for prayer is before the evening meal I share with my husband. This may not seem like a holy moment to some. Say the grace and eat, right? But in my case, it is the one and only moment of the day when my unsaved spouse joins with me in acknowledging the Lord. I treasure those holy seconds in my daily routine where I have a glimpse of spiritual oneness with my life partner.

  8. Thanks for your thoughtful answer, Susan. Upon reflection, I feel that my comment was off topic and should have been a part of another conversation.
    Before Zac’s accident I loved waking up very much as Jeanette expressed and going through my days with a sense of God’s presence and gratitude for His creation in whatever way it might be presented at any given time.
    How I miss that. I miss it so that I am desperate to have that intimacy back. I have much to work out. No matter what, though, even if I can’t feel it, I know He is with me and for me and loves me — no matter what.

  9. Donna, I didn’t feel you were off topic at all. In fact, your words made the thinking through a subject more enriching. I love it when a hard question awakens us to deeper searching. The knowing that He loves you when you cannot feel it is huge. How many of us struggle with that. Your desperation is a cry I am hearing from many for the presence of God. Again, thank you for sharing, and please, keep asking the hard questions!

  10. Susan, I am finally catching up with many spiritual readings after our move. I appreciate the time you are taking with your blog. I know it isn’t always easy. (As you can see by my hiatus)
    If you don’t mind my input responding to Donna….
    Donna, having pre-written prayers such as the daily office or the Celtic Daily Prayers has been very helpful to me during those times when I am at a loss to know how or what to pray. Those times come for many reasons some being disappointment, illness, not having some centering in my heart.
    I can read these prayers and be free of the “feeling” of them and also be aware that many in the world are joining me. I have been suprised often at how those prayers have become meaningful even when I wasn’t expecting it.
    What should we pray? How should we pray? What should we do when our prayers are not answered the way we expected? I’m not sure. But, I know I must continue. Blessings to you dear one even though I don’t know your circumstances.

  11. Thanks for responding to Donna, Cathy. It is my hope that this blog becomes a place for such conversations and interactions. No one wants to hear me as the only voice here. I hope people feel the freedom you do to comment on another’s entry. That is what makes this a community. So please keep talking!

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