A reckless experiment with prayer: the plan

January 12, 2008 | 12 comments

[This is part of an ongoing series about bringing peace to my daily life. You can read the other posts on this subject here (scroll down).]

To reiterate what may or may not have been clear from my last post, my goal with praying the Liturgy of the Hours is twofold: to finally start praying regularly to make prayer the priority I say it is; and to bring some desperately needed rhythm and structure to my life. This second goal is one of the reasons that I’m going to go ahead and say all three major hours rather than just start with one. Because I realize that this is a big change, I make no speculation about whether or not I’ll continue this after this week. I will see how it goes, judge the endeavor by its fruit, and evaluate from there.

Also, I should add that I did a “trial run” this past week to see where in my schedule there are natural fits for prayer time, and to give myself a chance to familiarize myself with the process before making any bold proclamations on my blog. 🙂

Without further ado, here is what I am committing to do from Monday to Friday of this week:

  1. I will start praying each prayer within 15 minutes of the time I have set for it: I have written out the times at which I will pray Lauds (Morning Prayer), Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Matins (the Office of Readings). I realize that it is not at all required that I be so precise with the timing, but that’s the whole idea about having “hard stops”. If I commit to “praying Lauds whenever I can get around to it, sometime in the morning” it will never happen. Giving myself too much flexibility on timing makes it all too tempting to put everything else first, e.g. “I’ll start Vespers after I do this load of laundry…”
  2. I will light candles at Vespers (Evening Prayer), and the day’s work stops then: As I said in one of my last posts, I yearn to live life in the natural rhythm of day/night cycles, yet I am not ready to make the huge step of foregoing artificial light. But what I can do is observe the ancient tradition of Vespers being the prayer said at the lighting of the lamps in the evening: I will light candles as a symbolic gesture that night has come, and work that is not finished must wait until tomorrow. (This doesn’t include our night routine, dinner / cleanup / baths, which will happen after Vespers).
  3. I will be prepared to make sacrifices: If a friend drops by just as I’m about to start Vespers, if the kitchen isn’t cleaned up when it’s time for Lauds, if I have to take my prayer book with me because I’ll be out and about during Matins, I will still stop and pray. I’m prepared that this may cause some inconveniences, but that’s the whole point about having hard stops, and one of the big reasons I’m doing this: to inconvenience myself and my tendencies to get distracted and put trivial matters before my true priorities.
  4. I will accept imperfection: Since I am brand new at this and am attempting to do it on my own, I will undoubtedly not do it perfectly. I will make every effort to say each office correctly, but I’m also not going to let myself get derailed if it’s not perfect (as I have in the past).

That’s it. This coming week, life revolves around prayer. Though I will go through my days as usual, I will not worry about doing anything other than simply sticking to these four commitments. Will I get nothing done? Will the house be a wreck? Will the kids hate it? Will the sacrifices I’ll have to make to put prayer first be just too much?

We’ll see.


  1. maggie

    I am inspired! You know how I said I was supposed to pray the rosary. I, uh, haven’t. But when I read your last post about doing your thing for a week and not making any promises after that, I thought, “I could do THAT.” So! My trial week may be this week as well…

  2. Elizabeth Foss

    I’ll be praying you experience much success with this endeavor. I recently wrote about our family’s experience with the Liturgy of the Hours here: http://ebeth.typepad.com/reallearning/2007/12/the-rhythm-of-p.html. Maybe there is something that will be helpful for you there.

  3. Charity Grace

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I found yours through Wittingshire, and I have really enjoyed reading about your spiritual journey.

  4. Catherine Shaffer

    This is an intereting project. Here’s a quick thought for you to consider. You’ve said a couple of times that you are “too busy” to say these prayers, and that you expect to be behind in housework by the end of the week. I’m not very familiar to them myself, so I just looked them up. The entire text of the invitatory plus matins prayers is, say, two pages of text. Seems like a lot, but how many blog posts do you read each day? I would say that reciting all three hours’ prayers each day would take no more than 10-15 minutes, and that is if you really take your time about it. If you’re like me, it’s probably less time than you spend reading blogs, news, and random links online. I’ve become aware of just how much time the internet sucks from my life, and so I’m making a conscious effort to severely limit my time online. This came about, by the way, because it was prompted by your thoughts about schedules and allowing enough time for the basic tasks in my day.

  5. Whimsy

    Someone doesn’t want you to do this. Consider it a good sign when it becomes a total pain in the neck.

    But since virtue is a habit of doing good, it does get easier with practice.

    This begs for a chesterton quote.

  6. nicole

    Good luck! What a great effort you are making–perhaps it will lead into a natural Lenten discipline as well. I think you will find that you use your non-prayer time more effectively, so you will be pleasantly suprised about what gets done. At least I hope so, for your sake. I’m looking forward to reading about your efforts.

  7. Jordana

    In our family, we haven’t gotten so far as praying the whole Liturgy of the Hours, but we have been doing Night Prayer. We have Shorter Christian Prayer, but for newbies like us it was hard to figure out. What made it much easier for us to get into a regular habit of saying prayers at night was buying Sacros’ Night Prayerbook ( http://sacros.com/P01_night.htm ), which takes that section of Shorter Christian Prayer and removes the flipping and figuring out where to go next.

  8. Rob F.

    You have my prayers and admiration, and may the Lord bless you! He has certainly blessed my wife and me as we have made vespers a regular part of our lives together, and I have made the Office of Reading a regular part of my private devotion.

    Keep at your devotions, and try not to be too discouraged if you fall. I read some very good advice from St. Alphonsus Liguori many years ago; he said that the most important thing about a private devotion is that it be done regularly, and that it be a priority. He said (and I’m paraphrasing, obviously) it is better to say only an angelus at noon, but EVERY noon, than to commit to saying 15 decades of the rosary every day, but then miss some days due to the effort involved and become discouraged. You’ll always have opportunities to increase your devotions later, after you grow in the grace of God. Commitment is more necessary to devotion than magnificence. Not that I’m knocking magnificence! Some, at least, magnificence is necessary to any relationship.

    All of which is to say, if this magnificent experiment fails, scale back and try again!

  9. Melanie B

    God bless your endeavor. I’m praying for your success.

    Catherine, I’ve found that each hour’s prayer takes about ten or fifteen minutes on it’s own when not interrupted, not ten or fifteen minutes total for all of them.

    And morning prayer, for example, generally takes a bit longer than 15 minutes as it’s a rare morning that I’m not interrupted by a toddler who wants me to hand her a tissue, to give her a blessing, or to admire her door-opening and shutting abilities.

  10. Woodrow

    You go, Jen! And if a friend drops by just in time for Vespers, invite him or her to pray with you. If I was visiting someone’s house and they were about to pray, I’d love to be asked to do so, too.

  11. Meredith

    This is a beautiful commitment, I love it! Thanks for sharing your efforts and many blessings in your faith journey!

  12. Liturgy

    This is so helpful within the context of a real, ordinary life,
    that most of us live
    and the stressing of putting first things first;
    and the important before the urgent.

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