The Divine Hours

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle

Simply put, this is a script for daily prayer. Depending on your background, this can really scare off Christians or they can become enthusiastic proponents of fixed hour prayer. My master-of-divinity brother-in-law Michael had a good point about fixed hour prayer when I was picking his brain last fall. He said that like all spiritual disciplines, it can be a great help in your Christian walk, or you can rely on Pharisaical actions to earn your own salvation. It always goes back to your heart: are doing this to please God and increase in holiness? Or are you doing it to impress God with your manufactured righteousness?

So, with that introduction, I like this book. I had some concerns to overcome before buying it after at least a year of deliberation.

  • My gut reaction against the title, "The Divine Hours," which sounds rather conceited in today's world. (Actually, it's an old, old title which probably could be paraphrased "The Sacred Times of the Day" in modern English.)
  • Phyllis Tickle, the author (or probably more accurately, the editor) is renowned in American spirituality and Christianity, but lately has thrown her support behind the Emergent Church, so I was concerned that she would dilute the truths of the Bible and the way historic Christianity has interpreted those truths.
  • Scripture quotations are from the New Jerusalem Bible, which apparently is the accepted Catholic translation but I don't know any more about it than that.
  • I don't come from a ecclesiastical tradition of fixed hour prayer or following the church calendar.
I used my birthday money to finally commit. I'm glad I did for the following reasons:
  • I'm not a disciplined person, so the prayers intended for certain times add structure to my day.
  • This is a great way to pray the through Scripture.
  • The Book of Common Prayer (a hallmark of orthodoxy) seems to be the foundation for this book. I would describe it more of a liturgy for personal worship. For example, each reading has Bible verses to praise God and make requests of God, there are selected hymns to sing, readings to meditate on, etc.
  • As described above, there's a nice variety to keep my attention from wandering.
I mostly just use the readings when I get up in the morning and before I fall asleep at night. I'm not a stickler for certain times, although I do the other two times (around lunch and dinner) if it's been "one of those days." It's nice to take a break from your day to specifically focus on God. The author emphatically notes The Divine Hours are not intended to replace personal prayer, and I've found that daily use encourages me make more informal, small prayers throughout the day.

If you're willing to take the red pill like me, check out this link to the current office. And now since I've stayed up too late (again) I'm going to bed.

"May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen."