Recently I have begun praying the Liturgy of the Hours and feel that it has helped me to maintain my focus and prayer life on God. For those of you that don't know much about these prayers - here's some information:
The Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Offices is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the church to be said throughout the day as a form of prayer. They are primarily made up of psalms, hymns and readings.
The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night. In the Psalms we find expressions like "in the morning I offer you my prayer"; "At midnight I will rise and thank you" ; "Evening, morning and at noon I will cry and lament"; "Seven times a day I praise you". The Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth and ninth hour and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.). The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of psalms, reading of the Old Testament, to which were soon added readings of the Gospels, Acts, and epistles, and canticles such as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Other elements were added later in the course of the centuries.
Matins (during the night), sometimes referred to as Vigils or Nocturns; it is now called the Office of Readings.
Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = 6 a.m.)
Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = 9 a.m.)
Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = 12 noon)
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = 3 p.m.)
Vespers or Evening Prayer ("at the lighting of the lamps")
Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring)
Now, one can either pray the Divine Offices on one's own at home; or some parishes offer the hours at each specific time they are to be said and the priest, or deacon will lead the prayer. (Note: there are differences in what is said in prayer if a priest/deacon is leading it, or if you are on your own) There are no rules on "what you HAVE to say", and "when you HAVE to say the prayers". Basically, if this just gets you to even start to spend more time adoring our Lord, then the Hours have done their job.
I tend to find the Hours extremely helpful in putting me in a more kind and gentle state. The Offices force you to sit down for ten, fifteen minutes at a time to pray to God. Setting aside the words, and scripture; the act of actually sitting down and praying to God seven times a day, is an act of love in itself. It is one thing to say you love God; than to actually show it (not boastfully I might add, but in secret, to eliminate the "pat on your back" mentality, because that isn't what love, or prayer, is about). The morning prayer, for example, asks for help against the temptation to sin. The afternoon prayer reminds us to seek the Lord's guidance throughout the day. The evening prayers offers thanks to God and asks for His protection through the night.
If you are interested in learning more about the Liturgy of the Hours, visit this web-site: