I’ve been thinking about the Psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours quite a bit of late. Jennifer at Conversion Diary posted an open question last week: Talk to Me about the Psalms, asking for help in understanding and praying the psalms.
I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours more or less constantly since 2001 or 2002 when my dad first sent me the one volume Christian Prayer. (He later gave me the full 4 volume set so that I could also pray the Office of Readings.) Jen’s request has got me thinking again about the practice and I have found myself compelled to give it much thought, about what it means to me and why I stick with praying the Divine Office.
I’ve fallen away from the discipline of praying the liturgy time and again. But I always come back to it. When I am away, I feel guilty and irritable with myself. But even more I thirst, I pine,I long for the refreshment I know lies in carving out that time, in making myself pray even if it has to be when I’m so tired I fall asleep over the book, eyes blurring, words writhing. Still, no matter how inattentive I feel, I know that to give some time to praise God, to make that offering, however meager and grudging, gives Him an entry point. He worms his way back in and wakens my dead heart and makes me live again.
This fall I went through such a spell. Exhausted, constantly sick with nausea, I found myself struggling one morning to pray while Sophie nursed and all I wanted to do was sleep. And I knew t that moment that it was ok to put down the book and close my eyes. I knew it was ok to let my body take the rest it needed. As it was. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen later to a voice that told me to pick the book back up. I kept ignoring it, full of excuses about how tired and sick I was. And I languished in the darkness. But I was not totally bereft of prayer. I cried out in anguish and frustration in my sickness and I received some comfort. And eventually the exhaustion did fade and I entered the second trimester and one day I opened my book again and began the hard work of re-establishing my prayer routine. Another season begins again, spring’s hopeful green after the little death of winter.
So here I am in the third trimester and another phase. I find that I am having trouble sleeping in in the mornings (This is what happens when you read about people waking before the kids to pray and think: that’s all very well for you; but I can’t do that! Sometimes God sends a wake up call in the form of a full bladder, an active kicking boy. Recently more mornings than not I find myself awake at dawn, or even a bit before. The pale sky, the chorus of birds singing the praises of the morning. And so I move from my bed to my recliner and I pray, adding my voice to the song. (Sometimes I get to fall asleep just a little bit more after the prayers are done. Lovely.)
Who knows what will happen to my prayer life when this baby comes. New babies don’t like to stay on schedule. I suspect I’ll have time to pray but it will be at odd hours. I’ve often found that nursing is a good call to prayer.
Other devotions and modes of prayer have never really appealed to me as the Liturgy of the Hours does. For many people the rosary takes a similar place at the center of their prayer life, other people pray novenas and have devotions to specific saints or to the Divine Mercy or the Sacred Heart. I’m curious about people who do both, to me it always seems like to focus on trying to pray the rosary every day or to try to pray a novena is always adding too much when my prayer day is already as full as it can be. When I have less time and energy I just say morning and evening prayer, when I have more energy and time I add the office of readings, one or more of the daytime hours (right now I say midafternoon prayer when the girls go down for their naps) and night prayer at bedtime. I can sometimes add a decade of the rosary on cd with Bella while we are in book reading mode or while I’m cleaning or else it comes up on iTunes shuffle while we are listening to music and we pause to pray. But to try to add another devotion regularly just doesn’t seem realistic and considering that the psalms and readings are easier for me to focus on, it seems a more productive form of prayer. Not that prayer’s primary purpose is productivity; but the rosary just feels like it is more conducive to my spacing out and not saying really meaningful prayer.
Anyway, I don’t think this rambling post said any of what I originally set out to say. But I’ll save that for later. I’ve got at least two more posts worth of random thoughts on the Liturgy of the Hours. Coming up: a selection of books about the Psalms and the Liturgy, and some thoughts on Lectio Divina.