During my sabbatical, I wanted to try a new spiritual discipline, and I chose fixed-hour prayer. Fixed-hour prayer can mean many things depending on person/group, but what they all have in common is that at specific times during the day, you stop what you are doing and pray. Here are some variations on that:
- Folks may have 1 time fixed (in some ways this is what a daily quiet time is), while at points in Church history, you’ll find people stopping as many as 7 times throughout the day/night. Seems like the most common is a morning, midday, afternoon, and/or evening, so 3-4 times each day.
- Some people will use a prayer book or perhaps a breviary of some kind to guide their times of prayer. Others will use their daily Bible reading plan to direct their prayers. Others will simply pray about what has happened in their day and what is still ahead, using the fixed-hour as a chance, simply, to reconnect with the Lord throughout the day.
- While many who practice fixed-hour prayer are Catholic, many protestants are now using it as a tool for growth. Some call fixed-hour prayer, when done at certain standard times, “the divine office.”
- All versions seem to try and make the time no longer than 10 minutes. It’s not a time of Bible study OR over covering your entire prayer request list, but really a chance to turn to the Lord and commune with him.
As a protestant, from the Reformed tradition, this was a new practice for me. I find that many of the guides/helps out there are either Catholic or very influenced by the Catholic tradition. This means, for me (and those who may share my convictions), that I had to do some sifting whenever trying to use a help. Some of the most popular “protestant” options would be Phyllis Tickle’s series The Divine Hours (free live online version here) and Reuben P. Job’s series of Guides to Prayer. If you do really want to use something like these, there are things in each of them that I’m not 100% happy with, but there’s also a lot of help in them, and you can simply skip the bits that are unhelpful.
In the end, the habit that has stuck with me and that I have brought into my daily routine is fixed-hour prayer at midday, in addition to my morning devotions. When my alarm goes off, I simply stop whatever I’m doing. That may mean in the middle of writing an email OR halfway through lunch. I take just a few minutes to pray about what has already happened in the day, pray about what I’m currently in the middle of, and pray for what remains on my schedule for the day. Though, first, I’m asking for growth in intimacy and joy in the Lord, and only then asking for wisdom, help, blessing, fruit in my work and relationships.
I’d like to add one other fixed-hour…likely mid to late-afternoon. In the evening, I’m often with God’s people or perhaps having family devotions at the dinner table, so it serves in many ways like a fixed-hour, though I’ve not been as consistent with that as I’d like.
It has been a meaningful practice. I do believe it’s kept me prayerful throughout the day, even as I work and go about life. It’s been FUN to just stop whatever I’m doing and turn to the Lord, to recognize His presence, goodness, sovereignty, and to spend a few moments focused on Him.
What about you? Want to try it out?