Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life
Lauralee Farrer and Clayton J. Schmit
Wipf and Stock, 2010
Numerous evangelicals and Mennonites of late have rejoiced to rediscover an awareness of the liturgical year, that framework by which our wider Christian tradition matches key themes and stances of the church’s life with the seasons of the calendar. Here is a book about rediscovering the “liturgical day.”
Authors Farrer and Schmit of Fuller Theological Seminary have crafted a collection of resources that beautifully illustrates the moods, themes, and stances of prayer the church traditionally associated with the various movements of the human day. They introduce the ancient Benedictine devotional practice known as the opus Dei (“work of God”) or divine office, a 1,500-year-old monastic rule still in practice worldwide. It calls for personal and corporate prayer at eight fixed Hours during a 24-hour period, including one in the middle of the night.
Each Hour in the cycle goes by its own Latin name (e.g. Vespers, Vigils, Lauds, Prime) and provides its own special lens, say the authors, for approaching God in prayer due to its relation with the ebb and flow of daylight and with events in the biblical narrative. The Hour known as Sext, for instance, recalls the crucifixion of Jesus at midday, while Terce marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit mid-morning at Pentecost.
Following a series of readable introductory essays on the background, meaning, mindset, and practical considerations of the divine office, the body of the volume consists of a sequence of liturgies for use by individuals and groups undertaking to pray the Hours over a single day or longer period. Each of the eight chapters in this section consists of an evocative piece of original artwork, a lyrical prose reflection on the personality of the time in question, a Rilke poem in translation, and a plan for a short worship service complete with responsive text, Taizé-style cyclical refrain (e.g. “My heart pounds in your rhythm/Syncopate my life, O God”), Scripture readings, and generous space for the spoken prayer which forms the heartbeat of the opus Dei.
Part coffee-table book, part how-to manual, this inspiring and distinctive resource will be of particular interest to planners of alternative worship services and to small groups ready to explore the challenge and reward of a 24-hour structured prayer retreat. Beyond that, the book has a unique gift to offer any Christian struggling to think differently about time in a society seemingly always in a race with it.