The Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office) is an ancient form of prayer with both traditional and ecumenical dimensions. At its heart stands the Word of God, especially as expressed in the Psalms, which have for centuries provided a language of prayer, both spoken and sung, for every branch of the church. Unaccompanied “music-prayer” was the worship style of the ancient Jewish synagogue. As early as the second century, the church assembled for prayer at regular times. Following the New Testament injunction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), this ultimately evolved into what we know as the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Divine Office. It is a daily rhythm of prayer by which we offer praise to God and ponder his word.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a form of communal prayer that marks the passing of time—the services follow the natural order of the day. In the morning, Lauds causes our first words to be offered to the praise of God. At Midday we briefly break from our labors in order to remember that God, not our work, gives meaning to our day and that whatever good we do will have prayer at its source. In the evening we celebrate Vespers, looking back upon the day with thanksgiving, while acknowledging that not all we have done has been to the glory of God. Finally, at Compline, we commend ourselves to God’s care through the night and pray for the blessing of God on his church.