Hours of Prayer

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This past week we have taken some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer to strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer. Tomorrow we return to following the reading plan with a series on the book of James by Jon Polk.

“Praying the hours,” which is also called “fixed-hour prayer,” “daily office,” or “the divine hours” is an ancient practice of prayer in which psalms, other scriptures, and written prayers are prayed according to a set schedule throughout the day at assigned times. It has been continually practiced by faithful Christians for thousands of years.

Reflection: Hours of Prayer
By John Tillman

I grew up in a faith tradition that eschewed “rote” prayer for “spontaneous” prayer. When I discovered the freedom, emotional connection, and expression that was possible in fixed-hour prayer, it was a revelation and a revolution in my spiritual practice. Ruth Haley Barton writes from similar experience in her essay, Sweet Hours of Prayer.

“I was convinced that spontaneous prayers were the only real prayers because they came from the heart; only people who were not very spiritual and did not have much to say to God needed to rely on prayers that were written by someone else!”

In so-called “spontaneous” prayer times of my youth, our leaders and I often fell back on familiar patterns and idiosyncrasies. We knew that deacon so-and-so was going to incessantly repeat, “DearLard,” in a pattern so familiar when it was our turn to pray we inadvertently mimicked him. These repetitions became just as “rote” as reading prayers thousands of years old but less polished and beautiful.

Of course, every prayer, well worded or not, is beautiful and may be heard with joy by our Father, but Barton continues:

“No matter how alone we might feel on any given day, fixed-hour prayer gives all of us a way to pray with the Church even when we are not in a church…This way of praying affirms that we are not alone, that we are part of a much larger reality—the communion of saints that came before us, those who are alive on the planet now, and all who will come after us. In a spiritual sense, praying with the Church through fixed-hour prayer expresses that deeper unity that transcends all our divisions—and that is no small thing.”

*Quotations from, Sweet Hours of Prayer by Ruth Haley Barton.


Another way to pray with us as a community is through our private Facebook group for subscribers to The Park Forum. Its primary purpose is for us to pray and connect as a community. Join us there if you have not yet and leave us a prayer request to pray for you.

You can also pray in community with us by following our prayer feed on the Echo prayer app.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.—Isaiah 1:18

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 11-12 (Listen -11:59)
Hebrews 13  (Listen -3:31)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
It is not the bell that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/called-to-prayer-the-angelus/

Read more about The Cultivating Life
Praying is like watering the soil of your heart so that it doesn’t become hard and dusty and so that the things God plants there can grow.

Extra Ordinary Prayer

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Extra Ordinary Prayer
By John Tillman

A kind of prayer that can have a profound difference in our lives is what Richard Foster refers to as “Ordinary Prayer.” Ordinary Prayer is anything but ordinary. It is seldom well-practiced. I would not say that we need less of any kind of prayer, but we could all use a little extra ordinary prayer.

Part of this type of prayer is putting our prayers into action. It is praying less with whispered words and more with the sweat of our brows and the work of our hands. A key part of Praying the Ordinary is the Prayer of Action.

Speaking of the Prayer of Action in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster quotes, Jean–Nicholas Grou: “Every action performed in the sight of God because it is the will of God, and in the manner that God wills, is a prayer and indeed a better prayer than could be made in words at such times” Foster continues, “Each activity of daily life in which we stretch ourselves on behalf of others is a prayer of action…These times are lived prayer.”

We enact prayers by putting what we say to God, ask of God, and know of God into all we do. C.S Lewis noted that the woman, noisily cleaning the sanctuary of a church and distracting him as he attempted to pray during the day, was praying with action, saying, “her enacted oratio is probably worth ten times my spoken one.”

But we do not need to be serving in a church or cleaning one to enact our prayers. Foster continues:

“Another way of Praying the Ordinary is by praying throughout the ordinary experiences of life. We pick up a newspaper and are prompted to whisper a prayer of guidance for world leaders facing monumental decisions. We are visiting with friends in a school corridor or a shopping mall, and their words prompt us to lapse into prayer for them, either verbally or silently, as the circumstances dictate. We jog through our neighborhood, blessing the families who live there. We plant our garden, thanking the God of heaven for sun and rain and all good things. This is the stuff of ordinary prayer through ordinary experience.”

We carry prayer with us into every moment of our lives. As we do, may our actions be blessings not curses, carrying the good news of the gospel.

*Quotations from Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples, make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip.— Psalm 66:7-8

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 5-6  (Listen -12:23)
Hebrews 10  (Listen -5:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chr 7-8 (Listen -9:04), Hebrews 11  (Listen -6:22)
1 Chr 9-10 (Listen -6:48), Hebrews 12  (Listen -4:36)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Prayer as Vocation
To some, it might be a surprise that one of the primary definitions of the word “vocation” is a divine calling.

Read more about Cultivating Daily Bread
Daily bread refers to a daily need for God and purposely highlights the need for spiritual disciplines that are required for us to grow in faith.

Called to Prayer :: The Angelus

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
By John Tillman

Money always catches culture’s eye.

In 1889 a painting of a moment of prayer sparked a bidding war that resulted in Jean–Francois Millet’s The Angelus, selling for 580,650 francs, an unprecedented sum of money, and in today’s currency, close to 3.25 million dollars.

Heidi J. Hornik reflects on the painting in her article, A Call to Prayer.

“The work shows a peasant couple bowing their heads in prayer as the evening Angelus bell tolls. In this thrice-daily devotion—morning, noon, and evening—the church bell calls followers to a prayer of gratitude for the goodness of God expressed through the Incarnation.”

We have written before about the spiritual discipline of praying the hours, which is related to the type of prayer seen in the painting. We regularly point readers to the work of Phyllis Tickle in The Divine Hours prayers. 

In the painting, a community, separated by distance, was united by the call of the bell and by pausing to pray. It is not the bell or the distant physical church that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

“Millet…recalls that ‘his grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer…’”

The Angelus prayer centers scripturally around the Annunciation to Mary and Mary’s response. The message, both from the angel and from the Magnificat later in Luke’s account, speaks of good news to the lowly and the poor. The gospel always comes first to the lowly.

“After the 1848 Revolution in France, a peasant revolt that spread fear in Europe, Millet’s paintings were negatively reinterpreted as fostering a too grandiose view of the common people…Though our estimate of a work of art will always be influenced by our attitude toward its cultural, political, and religious context, perhaps the time has come for us to appreciate The Angelus as an honest depiction of a prayerful response to God’s presence…the prayerful couple’s humility seems wholly genuine, reflecting their response to the grandeur of God’s work in nature between them and the church shown in the distance.”  

The Park Forum seeks to be a bell in the distance, calling our readers to spiritual disciplines that foster unity and grant purpose and power. 

Whether in a maze of cornfields, or a maze of cubicles, or a corner office, may we be called to prayer by setting a chime, a reminder, or a notification. At that tone, may we take a humble posture, similar to these peasants, and may we pray.

*View “The Angelus” by Jean–Francois Millet via this link.
*Quotations from A Call to Prayer, by Heidi J, Hornik

We will forgo the Divine Hours prayer today, to pray together the concluding lines of the Angelus Prayer. You may still find a link to The Divine Hours here.

The Angelus:
“Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.”


Today’s Readings
1 Chr 3-4 (Listen -8:52)
Hebrews 9  (Listen -4:40)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Transitions
The early church’s rhythmic practice of daily prayer and readings unified them across the known world

Read more about Artful Prayers
Art is not scripture. But all art preaches. Many times art preaches more effectively than a sermon.

For What to Pray

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: For What to Pray
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis, in some of his final published writings, addressed the question of “How important must a need or a desire be before we can properly make it the subject of a petition?”

As always, the professor is insightful and honest.

“‘Even an intimate human friend is ill-used if we talk to him about one thing while our mind is really on another, and even a human friend will soon become aware when we are doing so.

It may well be that the desire can be laid before God only as a sin to be repented, but one of the best ways of learning this is to lay it before God. Your problem, however, was not about sinful desires in that sense; rather, about desires intrinsically innocent and sinning, if at all, only by being stronger than the triviality of their object warrants. 

I have no doubt at all that if they are the subject of our thoughts they must be the subject of our prayers—whether in penitence or in petition or in a little of both. Penitence for the excess, yet petition for the thing we desire. If one forcibly excludes them, don’t they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure of things we are trying to keep our of our mind is a hopeless distraction. As someone said, ‘no noise is so emphatic as the one you are trying not to listen to.’

The ordinate frame of mind is one of the blessings we must pray for, not a fancy-dress we must put on when we pray.

And perhaps, as those who do not turn to God in petty trials will have no habit or such resort to help them when the great trials come, so those who have not learned to ask him for childish things will have less readiness to ask him for great ones. We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God’s.”

May we take every thought, every care to Christ. He will lovingly meet with us regardless of the trivialities of our concerns. In this, we may grow more mature and bring more mature petitions. We must be faithful with a little before we may be faithful with much.

*Quotations from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis


Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.— Psalm 71:23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 1-2 (Listen -11:18)
Hebrews 8  (Listen -2:22)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more from Lewis on Prayer Without Words
Words are in any case secondary. They are only as an anchor. Or, shall I say, they are the movements of a conductor’s baton: not the music

Read more about Inattentiveness in Worship
Lewis chides his readers for casting judgment on the worship practices of others, making an appeal to variety within the community of the church.

To Whom We Pray

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: To Whom We Pray
By John Tillman

Many cultures pray. Some pray with greater frequency, devotion, and earnestness than much of Christianity. But the outcomes of prayer depend more upon the faithfulness of the one who hears, rather than the one who prays. Madeleine L’Engle asks the question, “Whom do we pray to?” in her book, And It Was Good.

“If we are to pray, we must know where our prayers are directed. Jesus prayed to his Father. And here again, we have, in this century, a source of confusion…Jesus called the Master of the Universe Abba—daddy. Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was a man he could admire…but what about the rest of us, living in this time of extreme sexual confusion?

There was plenty of sexual confusion in Jesus’ world too, especially in the Roman culture where license and perversion were the order of the day. Nevertheless, Jesus constantly referred to his heavenly Father, and he taught us to pray: Our Father.”


Our century is not unique in being obsessed with sex and awash in sexual confusion. The image of fathers is, historically, troublesome for many.

“For those of us who are only confused or hurt by this image…Perhaps it helps to remember that it is an image…a way of groping toward the real.”

L’Engle recognizes some need to overcome broken father images to see God properly and she has a suggestion… 

“Some of us may find in the image of the Father the parent that we always longed for, and needed, the parent that our human father never was. What is it that we trust most? Is it the turning of the stars in the heavens? That, for me, is another image of the Creator.”

In coming to know God through prayer, we can transcend false and broken father images with the true image of Abba.

“It is Jesus of Nazareth, the Word as a human being, who calls God Abba…if the Word, as Jesus, could call out, “Abba!” so can I.

We all have our own images, and they nourish us, but ultimately the Lord to whom we pray is beyond all images, all imagining.”

When we begin in prayer with the image of God as our loving father we take the first steps of faith toward our true home and truest family, in the kingdom of God.
May our prayers, and their resulting actions, remake in our own mind and in our world the image of a good father.

*Quotations from And It Was Good, by Madeleine L’Engle
*Good, Good Father — by Housefires


Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.— Psalm 90:14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 25 (Listen -5:24)
Hebrews 7  (Listen -4:01)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

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