Each month in this section of the Spire I will be asking, “How can we turn information into transformation?” In searching for a response to this question, I’d like us to look to the margins of our own tradition and to the rich variety of other spiritual traditions. I hope this diversity in spiritualties, theologies, and practices help illuminate the Christ within your own heart. This month we will look to the oldest form of Christian spiritual practice.
Theologian Phyllis Tickle re-introduced fixed-hour prayer into the Church as her major project before passing away last year. Below is Tickle’s reflection on this ancient practice:
Fixed-hour prayer is the oldest form of Christian spiritual discipline and has its roots in the Judaism out of which Christianity came. When the Psalmist says, “Seven times a day do I praise You,” he is referring to fixed-hour prayer as it existed in ancient Judaism. We do not know the hours that were appointed in the Psalmist’s time for those prayers. By the turn of the era, however, the devout had come to punctuate their work day with prayers on a regimen that followed the flow of Roman commercial life. Forum bells began the work day at six in the morning (prime, or first hour), sounded mid-morning break at nine (terce, or third hour), the noon meal and siesta or break at twelve (sext, or sixth hour), the re-commencing of trade at three (none, or ninth hour), and the close of business at six (vespers). With the addition of evening prayers and early prayers upon arising, the structure of fixed-hour prayer was established in a form that is very close to that which Christians still use today.
Try watching the clock and creating specific times of the day where you pause and reflect on the goodness of God. Begin to structure your days around these playful moments, rather than planning prayer around your busy schedule.