Dear Friends, having just preached on the "Lord's Prayer‟ this last Sunday (28 July), prayer is very much in my mind and thoughts.
The services of Morning and Evening Prayer have their origin in the times for prayer following the discipline of monks and nuns. They got up, and some orders still do, even in the night to pray throughout the twenty-four hours of each day. These were called the hours - Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. In the Church of England we owe our three services, Matins, Evensong and Compline to these hours and many of the words we use come from the Benedictine Order. Up until the fifteenth century the word Hora, meant an hour, but was almost similar to the word for prayer, ora. To pray at set hours of the day was a discipline that kept the believer mindful of God and of the needs of the community, the poor and the needy.
These daily services were compiled into a book known as "Divine Office.‟ Monks or Nuns said the office and lay people were inspired to join in as much as they could. "Primers" or "Books of Hours‟ became the lay version of the Divine Office and were designed to foster the prayer life of ordinary people. Initially these books were luxury items and only the rich could afford them. They were beautiful, hand written and often illuminated and gilded, but the coming of the printing press made them accessible to others. William Caxton set up his printing press at Westminster Abbey and in 1476 produced the first liturgical book to be printed in this country - a Primer or Book of Hours.
We all need help to pray. There are many modern apps and resources to help us, but last Sunday we heard that the model Jesus gave us of the Lord's Prayer is the best place to start. Jesus himself is also the best model. He took himself to places that helped him pray and when there he opened himself to God. Being "open with God‟ is what prayer is all about. He knows our thoughts before we think them, he knows our words before they enter our minds, but we must still voice them. We must commune with God if we are to be the holy people he has called us to be. We are to be persistent in our prayers as Jesus taught - keep asking, keep praying day after day and throughout the day.
Hour and Prayer. Hora et ora. Let them be connected in our lives and we will become more recollected, tranquil and serene. Monks regulated their prayer by bells. Our Muslim brothers and sisters are called to prayer from the minaret. What will call you to prayer?
A lovely idea, that many have tried before for a season or as a discipline, is to say the Lord's Prayer at midday. As near to twelve o'clock as you can, say the Lord's Prayer and you will be connected to Christians the world over doing the same thing. The power of prayer is amazing and helps us to place God at the centre of our lives and puts love uppermost in all we do and say.
God bless you all and may you pray deeply, regularly and peacefully.