Robert Murray McCheyne said, “turn your Bible into prayer.”
That’s what I finding myself doing while I continue to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LotH) this week. I wrote the other day explaining my little experiment (see here). In short, I am praying an adaptation of the traditional monastic order of the LotH for seven days. This means praying seven times each day at set hours the first being at 2AM and and the last being at 7 PM. I’ve decided I’m gonna call this the “7X7.”
I’m not going to lie about it. I want to say, “this has been so wonderful and beautiful and transformative.” Don’t get me wrong, it has been good, but it has also been really hard. Interrupting my sleep to get up at 2 AM to pray the Office of Readings is tough. It can also be lonely. I have been sleeping in the spare room each night so I don’t wake my wife and baby son. I think my cat enjoys the company when I go to the living room to pray at 2 AM though!
I feel it working on me, but it’s really tough. I’m choosing to think of it like a spiritual boot camp though. This is “hell week” where so long as I endure I have made it. And I think there is something good about that. To use a different metaphor, it is like I am doing one of those detox diets where you eat only really healthy things for a set period of time to detox your body of all the toxins and junk we get from what we usually eat. I am doing a kind of spiritual detox where I detox my soul of spiritualities of connivence and drive-thru discipleship.
On a more positive note, here are some things I have really enjoyed about praying the LotH so far:
- I love that I am speaking out loud so much scripture. I am not just reading scripture I am praying it, proclaiming it, and hearing it. I like that. I think that is the way it should be more often. That is primarily how scripture was first received anyway.
- I love the mid-day interruptions for prayer. I am pushing through the 2 AM interruption to my sleep for Matins and the Office of Readings, but I am really enjoying being interrupted in my day to pray. There are 3 “daytime” prayer that are separate from the morning and evening prayers. The daytime prayers are midmorning (9AM), midday (12 Noon), and midafternoon (3PM). They are the shortest and easiest prayers of the day and usually take no more than 15 minutes if that. It really sacralizes my day. I have decided it is a “holy inconvenience.”
- I love that in addition to the many scripture readings there is daily a brief excerpt from an early church father’s writings or preaching.
- I like the Proper of Saints that includes the stories of saints down through history and includes prayers to God based on those saints. For example, on December 12 I learned about Jane Frances de Chantal who founded the Visitation Order and performed many works of charity for the poor and sick. Here are some pictures of the pages on Jane Frances de Chantal from the Proper of Saints:
- I also really love one of the final prayer of the day at 7 PM. Near the end it says, “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.” Beautiful!! Or this one which is the final thing said each day in the LotH: “May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Amen.”
- One final things I will share that I enjoy about the LotH. This is not part of the daily prayer rhythm, but is something in the appendices of the volume. Appendix IV has selections of poetry. Saint John of the Cross, Saint Augustine, Saint Patrick, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Dante, George Herbert, J. H. Newman, and Gerard Manley Hopkins are just a few of the names whose poetry is found in this collection. A new favorite of mine that has been especially meaningful to me during this season of Advent and Christmas is a poem called “The Nativity of Christ” by Robert Southwell.