While the “hours of prayer” date back before Jesus time, the context in which Jesus found himself was one well accustomed to fixed “hours of prayer.” The Roman Empire was efficient and commerce depended in no small part upon the orderly and organized conduct of each business day. In the cities of the Empire, the forum bell rang the beginning of that day at six o’clock each morning (first hour); noted the day’s progress by striking again at nine o’clock (third hour); sounded the lunch break at noon (sixth hour); called citizens back to work by striking at three o’clock (ninth hour); and closed the day’s markets by sounding again at six o’clock in the afternoon (evening hour).
Every part of daily life within Roman culture eventually came, to some greater or lesser extent, to be ordered by the ringing of the forum bells, including Jewish prayer and, by natural extension, Christian prayer as well. The first detailed miracle of the apostolic Church, the healing of the lame man on the Temple steps by Peter and John (Acts 3 v.1), occurred when and where it did because two devout Jews (who did not yet know they were Christians as such) were on their way to ninth-hour (three o’clock) prayers. Not many years later, one of the great defining events of Christianity – Peter’s vision of the descending sheet filled with both clean and unclean animals – was to occur at noon on a rooftop because he had gone there to observe the sixth-hour prayers.
Since the time of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus have observed the “hours of prayer”. Though the specific number of prayers and the exact hours may have slightly changed over time, the discipline has been passed down from generation to generation.
Let’s join in this discipline by participating in the “hours of prayer” before we go to bed, when we wake up, and sometime between 12:00pm – 5:00 pm daily. What should be prayed? Here is a suggestion for you for each one of those times:
Night: The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11 v.1-4)
Morning: Psalm 23
Mid-Day: Psalm 117
Another option is to pray The Lord’s Prayer at all three times.
Feel free to post your experiences and any question you may have about the “hours of prayer.”
**Our community that gathers on a weekly basis will be taking a Sabbath this Sunday (May 29). Enjoy time with your family and/or friends and we will come back together the following week.