Sunday, April 18, 2010

Praying the Hours among Religions

Recently I was in a discussion about how many religions pray at certain hours, similar to the way Catholics structure the Liturgy of the Hours (breviary, Divine Office, etc.) to pray at Morning, Mid Morning, Midday, Mid Afternoon, Evening, and Night prayer, not to mention the Office of Readings. Of course, those prayers are based around praying the Psalms, so that every 4 weeks we have basically prayed the entire book of Psalms. I had a Muslim, a Jew, and an Orthodox Christian tell me a little about their liturgical prayers based on the time of day, and I wanted to share them. It's something that I feel a lot (but not all, including some Lutherans and Anglicans I know) of Protestants really miss out on, and a major part of the majority of the world's religious practices.

Jewish: I found a lot of similarities with what she told me about Jewish prayer and how the Catholics practice (after all, ours developed in the first century from theirs, that is why we see Peter going up on the rooftop in Acts to pray at a given hour). Her mention of the blessings and prayers for daily life are reminiscent of Catholicism too, including our Book of Blessings that covers almost everything I can think of in life. Here is also a non-exhaustive list of a lot of Catholic blessings.

Anyway, let's here is what she had to tell me:

Yeah, Jews still pray at 'set times' - not exactly SET by the clock, but by the general time of day - evening, morning, and early afternoon. Alone or with a group - there are some prayers only for reciting with a group, otherwise they are skipped.

There are also prayers/blessings recited upon waking up, before and after eating, and before bed - and other occasions - but you are talking about the regular 'daily' prayers I think.

BTW, we have a prayer/blessing for going to the bathroom. It's longish, but boils down to 'thank God, everything is working!'

our set/liturgical prayers are three times daily: after sundown but before midnight (ma'ariv), from dawn to midmorning (shacharit), and after noon but before sundown (mincha). There is a 'set liturgy' for each of those (although personal prayers can be added). These prayers are typically recited/davened while standing and facing Jerusalem.

Typically, a person will say 'it is time to daven mincha' for instance. 'Daven' is an odd word, and not really translatable - it isn't 'recite' or 'pray' but means something like both, plus something like 'concentrate'. Usually a dictionary just says 'to recite Jewish prayers', though.

Occasions for reciting blessings are - myriad. There's a blessing for waking up. A blessing for successfully going to the bathroom. A blessing for new clothes. A blessing for food. A blessing for wine. A blessing for seeing a beautiful view. A blessing for hearing of someone's death.

And of course, one can pray - address God personally - at any time for any reason.

A sage once said: our lives are our prayer. If you are living your life the way you 'should', then you are 'praying' - all the time.

Next, the Muslim answer, in her's, we again we see a lot of similarities (I couldn't help but thinking when reading about both of these about how the English word "Easter" which as far as I know only English speaking countries used, came from a word meaning "from the East" referencing Christ's resurrection and the direction of Jerusalem, and that most of our Churches have altars that face East.):

Salah is the five daily prayers, which are required. When you see Muslims praying -- standing, bowing, prostrating in rows -- that's salah. Salah is liturgical -- there are set words, set movements, conditions which must be met, and set times. The times are determined by the position of the sun -- so depending on where you live and the time of year, the times for the five prayers change. The times are generally: sunrise, midday, afternoon, sunset, and night. Many Muslims still just look at the sun to determine when it's prayer time, but many use perpetual prayer calendars that show the exact times the prayers begin each day. There are websites where you can enter your zip code and it will give you the precise times. You're supposed to pray as close to the times as you can, but never before. So today, in my area, the prayer times are:


Du'a are just personal communications with God, said at any time, under any conditions. We have tons of examples of du'a that the prophet said -- you can say those, or your own words, or a combination. We have du'a for nearly every thing you might do, such as waking up, getting dressed, eating, before salah, after salah, meeting people, leaving people, traveling, feeling scared or sick or angry, etc etc. The prophet's du'a show that he was in an almost constant stream of communication with his Creator.

Finally, the Eastern Orthodox individual weighed in, here is what he had to say (obviously we have the most in common with their prayer.):

Yes, Orthodox Christians--especially those in monasteries--pray the hours. Pious Orthodox Christians probably pray at least twice a day---upon rising and retiring. Further, many wear prayer ropes around their wrists, which contain a certain number of knots which are used to pray the Jesus Prayer in repetition. ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.") Hence, the focus is on prayer without ceasing.

Anyway, it's very interesting and I wanted to share. Keep praying for me to keep up with my prayers, haha!


cheryl said...

How absolutely fascinating and wonderful that we too have prayers for even the little things we do throughout the day. I didn't know that. I will definately have to check out the link. I wonder if there is something similar among the more protestant churches, besides Lutheran and Anglican.

Also, I never thought about our repetitous prayers (eg "Hail Mary...") as a form of "praying without ceasing.." I'll remember that next time I pray a rosary.

PS. I don't know where your interests are heading, but I love learning about other religions, so if you come across anything else of interest, by all means please share.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Thanks Cheryl, me too. I'll be sure to pass anything along I learn or hear about. It's quite wonderful to learn about our common heritage and similarities/differences sometimes.