What’s in Your Prayer Book?

Christian Prayer

If you’re interested in learning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the first step is easy: buy a copy of Christian Prayer.

Once your prayer book arrives, however, you’ll find that it contains a lot of stuff: calendars, instructions, prayers, readings, songs and more. Let’s learn about what’s in your prayer book.

I. Introductory Materials

At the beginning of the prayer book, there are a number of helpful resources worth reading through when you get some time. These include:

  • General Instructions
  • Liturgical Calendar
  • General Principles

II. Proper of Seasons

On page 39, we find the beginning of the first section of the prayer book titled, “Proper of Seasons”. Here, the word “proper” means “peculiar”, and refers to a collection of prayers and readings that are peculiar to individual days in the Church calendar. You will see if you turn to the first page (p. 41) that the first season is Advent and we begin with the “First Sunday of Advent”. If you look on that page, you’ll see a number of different bits of readings and prayers. These are proper to the First Sunday of Advent. If you turn to page 64, you’ll see the next week, “Second Sunday of Advent”. This continues until the last event on the Church calendar, the Solemnity of Christ the King on the Last Sunday in Ordinary Time–on page 674.

III. The Ordinary

On page 685, the second part of the prayer book begins, titled “Ordinary”. This important section provides the “ordinary” script for the main hours of daily prayer. If you look on page 686, you’ll see the script for the “Invitatory” Psalm. The day begins with the prayer,

Lord, open my lips.
Any my mouth will proclaim your praise.

On page 689, you’ll see the “ordinary” form for “Morning Prayer”. On page 694, you’ll see the “ordinary” form for “Evening Prayer”

IV. The Psalter

The heart of divine worship has always been centered on the Psalms. These are, for the most part, the holy prayers and songs of King David, the psalmist of ancient Israel. The Church divides the 150 psalms of the Bible, into a four week schedule. Thus, the entire psalter is recited every 4 weeks.

Before and after each Psalm an “Antiphon” is read, which captures the essence of the Psalm. Between psalms, prayers are given which allow us to turn the words of the psalms into our own prayers. Readings are also provided for each office. All of this is included in the Psalter–the heart of our daily prayers.

V. Daytime Prayer

After the psalter, on page 994, we find the “script” for “Daytime Prayer”. This allows us to pray once at midday or to add three daytime offices at midmorning (9am), midday (12pm) and midafternoon (3pm). If we pray only at midday, Daytime Prayer provides all of the psalms, prayers and readings necessary. If we pray more than one daytime office, the “Complementary Psalmody” section on page 1027 provides psalms for all three hours.

VI. Night Prayer

Beginning on page 1034, we find the daily “scripts” for “Night Prayer”. Night Prayer is easy to learn because the same script is repeated each week on the same day. So, every Monday night is the same, every Tuesday night is the same, and so on.

It’s important to note that Night Prayer always ends with a prayer or song to the Virgin Mary. These are found on page 1056.

VII. Proper of Saints

If you wonder how the Liturgy of the Hours relates to the calendar of saints’ memorial days, you’ll find your answer in this section, the “Proper of Saints”. As we saw in the second part (above), the word “proper” refers to prayers and readings that are proper or peculiar to individual saints. For example, on November 21, we remember the “Presentation of Mary” and we find in our prayer book special antiphons and prayers for the day.

VIII. Commons

It’s clear that the Proper of Saints do not include prayers for all of the saints celebrated day by day throughout the Church year. On days when no “proper” is available, saints are remembered with prayers that are “common” to a class to which they belong. These commons begin on page 1355 and continue through page 1500. If you flip through these pages, you will see the different commons included, and you’ll notice that if you read about a “saint of the day”, it will identify to which class he or she belongs.

IX. Music

Starting on page 1502, the music section of our prayer book begins. You will find a list of Catholic hymns, grouped by the an event in the Church calendar or part of the Liturgy of the Hours to which they relate. The hymns run from page 1507 through 1707. Then, music is provided for the chanting of the different parts of the Liturgy of the Hours. This can be confusing for beginners, but we’ll discuss this music in another post.

X. Office of Readings

The “Office of Readings” is an office that provides readings from Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers. To be clear, if you are interested in reciting the Office of Readings regularly, you should upgrade from the one volume “Christian Prayer” to the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. All of the readings for the Office of Readings are NOT included in the one volume prayer book.

If you’d like to recite the Office of Readings, you can do so in the one volume prayer book. This begins on page 1785

XI. Poetry

The prayer book includes a collection of Catholic poems from a number of saints and other Catholic poets. This begins on page 2057.

XII. Indexes

Lastly, the prayer book provides a number of helpful indexes. This begins on page 2064.

Conclusion

In this post, we have surveyed all of the content found in Christian Prayer, the one volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. While the book can appear confusing at first glance, once you begin learning to pray the offices, it will become simple and easy to use.

Now that you’ve surveyed the prayer book, it’s time to start praying.

God bless,
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

Return to the CLAA Liturgy of the Hours page.