Ritual and Routines Are Key to Prayer

“Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Easier said than done, as anyone who has tried it knows.  It is certainly vital to be always joyful and always to give thanks.  But for today, let’s focus on “pray without ceasing,” sometimes translated as “pray always.”

Exactly how are we to do that?  One has to eat.  One has to work.  And whether one’s work is mental or physical, it is difficult if not impossible to pray while preparing tax returns, or  grading papers or running a piece of construction equipment.

The answer, I think, is in establishing routines and rituals.  That’s what people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours do.  They pray certain “hours” (which really are anywhere from five to 20 minutes) at the same time every day.

In my own praying LOTH, here’s my normal schedule:

When I get up, I pray the Invitatory.  It begins, “Lord Open My Lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise,” and includes  Psalm 95.  I have it memorized, so I don’t need to use a Breviary or other device.

After fixing a cup of tea, I settle in and pray the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer.  The Office of Readings can be prayed any time, but it’s the first “hour” for each day, so it’s easier to simply follow the order in the book.

Morning prayer is supposed to be prayed in the morning (Duh!), and it immediately follows Readings.

The daytime hours are optional for most people.  But, as a member of the Confraternity of Penitents, I am required to pray them.  They are short — take no more than five to eight minutes — which makes them easy to forget.  So I pray Midmorning Prayer immediately before starting work, Midday Prayer at Lunch, Midafternoon Prayer at roughly 3 p.m.  But sometimes Midafternoon Prayer is prayed at the end of the workday.

After dinner, and after the CBS Evening News, I pray Evening Prayer.  And I pray Night Prayer before going to bed.  Some people combine Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.  That’s allowed, but I usually don’t do it.

You’ll notice that I anchor every single hour to something else.  That makes it part of a routine.

Still, you might say, this isn’t praying without ceasing.  I don’t say Hail Marys every time I type a word.  Still, it effectively spreads my prayer throughout the day.  I never go more than three hours without consciously praying.  I use the Daytime Prayers as a way to sanctify my work, so you could say that even while I am working I am also praying.

You might say, “that’s nice, but I don’t want to lug a breviary around with me.”  Neither do I.  I do use a Breviary at home.  In my car and in my office I have copies of Daytime Prayer, which contain just those prayers.  And I have both the Divine Office and iBreviary apps on my smartphone.

This has become routine for me, so much so that I don’t even think about it.  But every once in a while, I do — and I’m always astounded to figure out, including about 15 minutes of mental prayer, I’m praying abut 90 minutes a day.

Next in this series: Other ways to pray constantly, but without a breviary

About Joel Whitaker

Joel Whitaker is a long-time professional journalist (Tampa Bay Times, Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Bulletin, Institutional Investor, executive newsletters) and Catholic convert. He is the RCIA coordinator for his parish.
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