Reflecting on the fine article in this issue about praying the Liturgy of the Hours, it occurred to me that through the Mass and the Daily Office, Catholics hear more Scripture read over their lifetime than any other Christian tradition. But do they know where to find it on their own?
To help explore a way of improving on this, my staff and I, for years, have been praying together a simplified version of the Daily Office using our Bibles. In doing it this way, we do not attempt to follow the liturgical calendar (though it can be done), but rather we focus on reading and praying over time the entire Bible in the order as established by the bishops at the fourth century councils that defined the Canon of the Bible. This method can be done privately or in a group.
The following is only a suggestion, of course, and it is not in any way intended to replace the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a rich and beautiful prayer tradition in the Church. This is, instead, a way to deepen our scriptural awareness and augment our prayer lives.
Our personalities are all different, but before you assume you are so different that these suggestions do not apply, start by asking God to help you discern what is best and true for your mental focus during prayer. A mental correction or focus is necessary to enable this to be prayer over and above merely reading for enlightenment, knowledge or inspiration.
Sometimes we may not understand what is said — the psalmist may be referring to a subject, event or custom from his own time to which we may not be able to relate. Our Father knows, however, not only its original significance but its implication for our present life, so we offer the words in trust.
Now here’s the method we use:
1) Put small sticky tabs in your Bible at Psalm 95 and Luke 1: Psalm 95 is where the Liturgy of the Hours traditionally begins in the Invitatory, and Luke 1 contains the Benedictus (1:68-79) for morning prayer and the Magnificat (1:26-55) for evening prayer.
2) Use a Bible ribbon set with at least four ribbons.
3) Have a pencil ready to mark where you progress each day in each book.
4) Assuming you are starting from scratch, place a ribbon each at Psalm 1, the beginning of an Old Testament book (Genesis), the beginning of a New Testament epistle (Acts) and the beginning of a Gospel (Matthew).
5) You choose the number of Psalms and length of each book you will read during each time of prayer, depending upon your our situation and needs.
6) Open your prayer with the Sign of the Cross. For morning prayer, say, “Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Thy praise.” For evening prayer, begin with, “God come to my assistance; Lord make haste to help me.”
7) If saying morning prayer, begin by reading or chanting Psalm 95. ending with “Glory be ...”
8) Read or chant another psalm ending with “Glory be ...”
9) Read and meditate on a section of an Old Testament book.
10) Read and meditate on a section of a New Testament epistle.
11) Read and meditate on a section of a Gospel.
12) Chose some verse from any of the previous readings to serve as an antiphon, then read the antiphon, read the Benedictus (or Magnificat if evening prayer) ending with “Glory be ...,” then repeat the antiphon.
13) Present your personal prayer requests before God (using, for example, Acts: adoration, confession, thanksgiving or supplication).
14) End with the Lord’s Prayer, a Hail Mary, a Glory Be and, while signing yourself, pray, “May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.” TCA
Marcus C. Grodi is host of the popular EWTN program "The Journey Home" and president of the Coming Home Network International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.