It’s official: I have practiced a new spiritual discipline for over two weeks!
Not very impressive, I know. But this spiritual discipline has already benefited my spiritual life in so many ways. The practice is known as fixed-hour prayer.
If you are a Baptist like me, you may be completely unfamiliar with fixed-hour prayer. Roman Catholics have been practicing it for centuries. Protestants have used various prayer books such as the Book of Common Prayer. Phyllis Tickle’s series of books, The Divine Hours, are a more modern version of this practice.
What is Fixed-Hour Prayer?
The basic idea is that there are fixed times throughout the day that you use a liturgical resource of some kind to lead you in prayer. This resource guides you through various prayers, Scripture readings and hymns. Some of the most common times are morning, midday (11-2), evening (vespers) and right before bed (compline).
The main reason I have largely ignored this type of practice is because of my theological disagreements with certain traditions who practice this discipline. But after investigating the practice more, I think this type of praying is not only biblically permissible, but biblically based!
Daniel “got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (Daniel 6:10).
The psalms talk about praying at different times throughout the day and night:
“Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).
“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3).
“But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you” (Psalm 88:13).
“When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6).
“I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law” (Psalm 119:55).
“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules” (Psalm 119:164).
Interestingly enough, Luke mentions an “hour of prayer” in Acts 3:1:
“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.”
Even if these passages were not in the Bible, this discipline is a practical way to help us “pray without ceasing.”
Putting It Into Practice
Now, there are some possible dangers here. Prayer is not about saying certain “incantations” to get God to do what we want. Jesus also warns us against using “vain repetitions” in our prayers. We must avoid mindlessly repeating something over and over again or thinking that the “magic” words can coerce God to do something.
Each of these resources provides prayers, hymns, and Scripture readings for morning, midday, evening and late evening. All you do is open them at the right time of day and read, pray and respond to the selected material. Usually the prayers ground me in the present moment and allow me to go deeper into communion with God.
I can honestly say that this discipline has helped me to pray more consistently throughout the day than any other practice. Even when I don’t feel like praying, I can still open the app or the book and say a quick prayer or read a Psalm. In my mind, anything is better than nothing!
What about you? Have you tried fixed-hour prayer before? Any resources you would recommend? Let me know your thoughts!