The Liturgy of the Hours (aka The Divine Office) is formally called “The Prayer of the Church.”
In the past it was more common for only clergy and religious to “pray the hours”, sanctifying the day by praying at set times> Now the laity – and not just Catholic laity – are beginning to embrace this form of prayer – one given to us through our Judaic heritage – in a very big way.
I have been praying the LOTH for just about ten years, now – sometimes I slack off, but when I do, my family can always tell.
Praying the Hours (chanting when I am alone, praying more quietly when the house is occupied) makes you profoundly aware of time. Interrupting your own concerns to pray at set times gives you a chance to “notice” that the day is passing, that time is fleeting, that you and your loved ones are constantly in a new moment, and that awareness is a good thing. Also, being forced to step out of your little world, and all of its “important” concerns, for the space of time it takes to pray an office brings insight into what really matters in your life, and what is merely a moment’s profitless pre-occupation.
Psalmody helps you to gain perspective on the world – on the shared experiences of humanity, the ordinary banality of evil, the human-ness of our baser feelings – and it also gives perfect expression to our deepest anxieties and highest exaltations or feelings of thankfulness.
I don’t pray all of the hours. Compline – the prayer before sleep – is pretty consistent, but through most of 2007 I felt like I was doing pretty well if I managed either morning or evening prayer.
Resolved to commit more time to prayer in 2008, I have been pretty good about morning and evening and compline, but I rarely prayer the mid-day Office of Readings unless I have a good block of free time.
Since the new year, I have – when possible – been praying morning prayer (lauds) and evening prayer (vespers) before my computer screen, turned to this page. Praying the psalms, canticles and collects, the readings and intercessions before the Monstrance – which contains the Real Presence (and runs on a live feed!) seems to bring the prayer, or at least my involvement in it, to a deeper level. It is the Liturgy of the Hours, with a kick. Give it a try.
And of course, if you would rather not purchase a breviary – or can’t decide which you might like – there is always Universalis.
Honestly, I had no idea the ‘net had so much info on the LOTH. Another good resource here.
Related: Who sings prays twice