An Introduction to Daily Prayer

(Family Faith : Worship)
Prayer, Worship, Fish Lantern, Paul Bradshaw, Hippolytus, Early Church Worship

An Introduction to Daily Prayer

Ancient sources reveal that a tradition of daily prayer at stated hours developed quite early in the history of the church. The practice of assembling for these times of daily prater was derived in part from Jewish custom and is mentioned in the New Testament.
Christian daily prater evolved into two forms:
1 Monastic prayer: practiced by members of separated communities (originally of lay people), and
2 Cathedral prayer(popular prayer): for which members of the local congregations would assemble with their bishop and other leaders.
Daily prayer included the recitation of psalms and hymns, with congregational responses.
Some elements in historic Christian liturgies seem to have originated in the practice of daily prayer.

The Tradition of Daily Prayer
Prayer has always belonged to all Christians, but has been perceived in some historical periods as the possession of the clergy.


Fish Lantern: Depicted here is an ancient lantern made in the form of a fish. In the early church, the letters that spelled "fish" formed an acrostic that read Jesus Christ, God's Son our Savior. For Christians, the fish was an emblem of profound significance, expressing salvation through Jesus Christ.

The primary hours of Daily Prayer are morning prayer and evening prayer. (also know as matin and vespers, or evensong) were part of the prayer
Morning Prayer: is a prayer of thanks and praise for the new day and for salvation in Jesus, symbolized by the rising sun.
Evening Prayer: is the Christian way of closing the day, a reflection on the good of the day and reconciliation for the wrongs done.

The early Christians inherited this tradition of prating at the turn of the day from Judaism, adding their own Christological meanings to it. By the second century, Christians were gathering together to observe morning and evening prater in some form. The form was elaborated in the third century and written down in great detail for us by the fourth.

Developing in the same historical period (fourth century) was another kind of daily prayer, monastic prayer. In the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, the growing monastic movement gave rise to another type of morning and evening celcbration. The monastic prayer can be more properly thought of as a sercice of prayer and meditation on Scripture than as liturgy, the whole church will gathered together to pray (including clergy), becuase the monastic movement in its beginnings was a lay movement.

Eventually  it was the general history of the church that determined how these two types of prayer evolved.
The monastic movement became urban when many monks moved into the cities from the desert.
The final step in this de-evolution of popular daily prayer was the trend toward private recitation, originally a spoken or non-choral celebration of morning and evening prayer that became solo truly private.

Evidence for the Origin of Daily Prayer
Jewish Hours of Prater--In the Temple at Jerusalem sacrifices were normally offered only twice each day, in the morning and in the evening, with additional offerings being made on Sabbaths and festivals.
While all Jews would have offered prayer, twice a day, some follow the custom of praying three times a day. (Dan.6:10)
The Jewish tradition of prayer centers around the temple, the synagogue, and the home.
Jesus likes to prayer very early in the morning. (Mark 1:35, Matt. 14:23, Mark 6:46; John 6:15; Luke 6:12)
The Disciples like to prayer in the third hour. (Acts 2:15; 10:9, 30; Mid-night 16:25)
Early Christians --every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

Daily Prayer in the first three centuries.
According "Apostolic Tradition"
The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of praying at mealtimes and at set hours of the day. Christian should pray no less than five times a day in the morning, at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (about 9 AM, noon, and 3 PM) and in the evening. Psalms were apparently not commonly used at these times of prayer; Bible reading would have been a part of the daily devotions of those few Christians wealthy enoough to own copies of the Scriptures.

In the Apostolic Tradition (written by Hippolytus):
Let every faithful man and woman, when they have rosen from sleep in the morning, before they touch any work at all, wash their hands and pray to God, and so go to their work.
For he who prays in the church will be able to pass by the wickedness of the day. And if you are at home, pray at the third hour  and bless God. But if you are somewhere else at that moment, pray to God in your heart. For at that hour Christ was nailed to the tree. Pray likewise at the time of the sixth hour. For when Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross, the day was divided, and darkness fell. And at the ninth hour let them pray also a great prayer and a great blessing, to know the way in which the soul of the righteous blesses God who does not lie. For at that hour Christ was pierced in his side and poured out water and blood; giving light to the rest of the time of the day, he brought it to evening. Then, in the beginning to sleep and making the beginning of another day, he fulfilled the type of the resurrection.

Cathedral Prayer East and West
After the conversion of Constantine in the early fourth century, the daily public celcbration of morning and evening prayer became a regular practice in major towns and cities. Because the clergy and people would generally gather under the presidency of their bishop for these daily liturgies, they are usually referred to by scholars as "cathedral" offices. They consisted principally of praise and inercession. Psalms 148-150 became established as the universal morning song of praise, Scripture reading was not a part of these daily offices, but was still generally restricted to catechetical calsses and occasional services of the Word during the week.
As soon as dawn comes, they start the morning hymns, and the bishop with his clergy comes and joins them, he first says the Prayer for all and blesses the catechumens, and then another prayer and blesses the faith.Then he comes utside the screenm, and everyone comes up to kiss his hand. He blesses them one by one , and goes out, and by the time the dismissal takes place it is already day.
Again at mid-day everyone comes into the Anastasis and says psalms and antiphons until a message is sent to the bishop, and again, after a prayer, he blesses the faithful and comes outside the screen, and again they come to kiss his hand.
At three o'clock they do once more what they did at mid-day.

Monastic Prayers East and West
There had always been some hristians whose spirituality was not satisfied with frequent times of prayer during the day but who wished to fulfill more literally the injunction to "pray withour ceasing."This attitude was inherited by the Egyptian desert fathers of the fourth century. Monastic communities in orher parts of the East and West followed rather different customs. They tended to preserve the times of prayer formerly observed by all Christians in the third century morning, third, sixth, and ninth hours, evening, and during the night -- and sometimes added further hours to these, often including a weekly all-night vigil.

Paul Bradshaw