“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.”
Psalm 119: 164
Often called the “Divine Office” or “Liturgy of the Hours” is an official set of prayers (including the Psalms) used in monastic communities by monks and nuns. They pray seven times a day as instructed by the verse above from Psalm 119. The number seven in the bible was symbolic of completeness or perfection: the seven days of creation, ancient feast days of the Old Testament that lasted seven days, Jesus instructing to forgive seven times seventy, the seven churches in Revelation…just to a name a few examples.
It might sound like too high of an expectation for most of us to pray seven times a day because, let’s face it…do we really have the time? We assume that people living in monasteries who devote their life to God have the time to pray seven times a day and that’s why they do it. Most people don’t realize that people who live in religious communities have jobs just like us. They either work outside the monastery or they have jobs to do on site. Many monasteries, in order to financially sustain themselves, have another source of income—they host retreats, run a gift shop, train dogs, grow trees, make and sell stained glass windows, pottery, cheese, chocolate or honey.
And in the midst of their workday, a church bell rings (seven times a day) that calls them to prayer. The bell reminds them that whatever it is they are doing at that moment…it can be set aside because God is the reason—the only reason—they are able to do what they are doing at all! It reminds them to take time every day to praise the One who is at the source of everything.
At my retreat this summer at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, I will be joining the monks when they are praying the hours. My goal is to try and make the Liturgy of the Hours at least six times per day…I doubt very much I will make the one at 3:15 AM!
The point is to be reminded that God is a part of our daily lives and that we should “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17) even if it’s only to say a brief “thank you” to God at different times of the day and to recall that no matter what we are doing: working, playing, resting…God is with us. God is with us throughout the important tasks as well as the mundane…God cares about every single detail of our lives!
Being at the church and hearing the beautiful bells of the carillon playing at different times of the day has been my “call to prayer” since I started at St. Peter’s. The carillon plays at 8:00 am, 12:00 noon, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Even pastors get so caught up in the busyness of our days…that sometimes we forget to pray!
What’s your carillon? What “calls” you to prayer? Music? Another person? The sound of the birds chirping outside your window? A gentle breeze that touches you? The beauty of creation? Whatever it is that reminds you of God…take advantage of that “call” and send a prayer God’s way.
You don’t have to pray seven times a day…though God would love to hear from you that much. But, at least think of God and acknowledge God’s presence in your life and send a “thank you” or an “I love you” in the midst of your busy day. You might just be surprised what a difference it makes in your daily routine to just step back and spend a few moments in God’s presence!
God’s Peace and Blessing,