Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  
Praying with Your Heart The Divine Hours Prayers and Essays Pray for Those in Need
The Divine Hours-Praying the Way Jesus Prayed  

What Drew Me In and Kept Me Practicing Fixed-Hour Prayer
by Phyllis Tickle

From The Divine Hours:

Pray the Hours


A Brief History of
Fixed-Hour Prayer

Notes to Help
You Use the Prayers

Symbols and Conventions Used

The Divine Hours Book Cover



To purchase a copy of any of THE DIVINE HOURS books visit

Visit Phyllis Tickle's
website at:


Like many another cradle Protestant, I grew up with little or no knowledge of the historic disciplines of Christianity. We kept the Sabbath stringently at our house, but that was about the sum total of the thing. The association between the monthly “communion” at our church and the Passover or eucharist or mass was rarely made and, for all I know, was no more understood by the adults in my life than by me. Fasting was regarded as peculiar to the extent that it was regarded at all. Bible reading was a private function assumed, but not discussed; and chanting was an antique something or other that happened in misty, sepia-toned movie scenes involving monks and exotic landscapes, usually with medieval pretensions. The irony in all of this was, and is, that one of the three most ancient of Christian disciplines (and some would say, its most ancient) was too completely lost from common view even to be ignored, save in so far as it was related to the chanting monks on the misty movie screens.

I was in college before I ever heard the word breviary. It fell out of the lips of my very Anglican major professor, a woman whom I both adored and also regarded as the most balanced Christian I had, up to that point anyway, ever met. As a result, I went scurrying to a dictionary, only to discover that a breviary was really just a book, albeit a particular kind of book…a book for “praying the hours,” or as the dictionary also put it, for “observing the daily offices.” Clueless and young, I parked my curiosity just there and went on to more compelling subject matter. Several years later, married and with three children, I chanced--one wonders, of course, about that choice of words—I
chanced upon an old breviary in a second-hand bookstore, opened it,
read for
no more than three or four minutes, went to the cashier and, from there, home with my treasure. My life quite literally pivots on that moment, all things autobiographical dating from before or after it. Within a matter of a few days, I had learned the rhythm of praying on the hour every three hours, had mastered the instructions and rubrics for finding my way through the breviary to the prayers appointed for each office each day, and had even


discovered how to excuse myself unobtrusively from a group or activity each time the time of an office or divine hour came around.

It was amazing to me…amazing that I had heard a hundred times over the Psalmist’s saying, “Seven times a day do I praise Thee,” and never bothered to ask what he was talking about; amazing that even though I knew Jews prayed at set times each days and that Muslims are likewise called to their prayers at five set times a day, I had never wondered where the discipline came from and whether or not it was also part of my own heritage which had somehow got misplaced along the way; amazing that the prayers I was offering were the same ones being offered by thousands of Christians in my time zone at exactly the same time I was offering them, as if we were indeed a cloud of witnesses and a great company of believers; amazing that the prayers I was offering were in large part the same prayers of praise and worship that my Lord had prayed and offered; amazing that increasingly as I prayed I could hear, as one friend of mine now says, “a thousand’s thousand voices” joining mine across all that is or has been or will be.

Such discoveries are heady stuff; and while they have settled now to becoming less startling and exhilarating, they have also grown into a way of worship and governance that is solid and steady, as much to be trusted for instruction and sculpting as to be celebrated for its great beauty and holy communing.

In time and after my initial discovery, spirituality was of course destined to become a hot button of conversation for us Americans. Interest in it would send us scurrying, first for any discipline that opened the domain of the spirit to us and, eventually, for those disciplines that were our natural birthright as practicing Christians. The first thing to be re-discovered in the latter part of that process was fixed-hour prayer or praying the hours or, if you prefer, observing the offices. Over the last decade, as a result, thousands of Christians—main-line Protestants, evangelicals, Orthodox and Roman Catholics alike—have returned to the relief and joy of the divine hours. I join them there every day. I hope you will, too.

And one last word…if this discipline is not for you, you will discover that fact fairly early on in trying it. In that case, move on and keep looking until you are led to the practice that most suits your own relationship with God. A wise rabbi once said to me years ago, in speaking of fixed-hour prayer, that it is the prayers one says which interest God, not the prayers one does not say. On so long a journey as life, that is a good thing to remember.

Copyright ©2004 Phyllis Tickle


(Return to Top)


Send this article to a friend.

Home | Explore God's Love | Explore Your Faith | Explore the Church | Who We Are
Reflections | Stepping Stones | Oasis | Lifelines | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us |
Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org