Tuesday 18 January 2022

A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer - Father Robert Taylerson - How to Pray the Prayer of the Church

A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer: 
How to Pray the Prayer of the Church 
Robert Taylerson
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860823091
eISBN 9781784694319
CTS Booklet D671

Over the last several years, I have read over 250 volumes from the CTS. I have read books from many series, and many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies including biographies from the Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. I read two books by Father Taylerson in the CTS Deeper Christianity Series called Prayer in Sadness and Sorrow, and an older version of this work, also 2 others in the Deeper Christianity Series. The description of the booklet is:

“This Guide is intended for anyone who wants to learn how to pray The Prayer of the Church, also known as the Divine Office, Liturgy of Hours or Breviary. Promoted by the Church as a Prayer for the whole People of God (not only for religious or ordained), this Guide gets down to the basics of how to use the breviary itself, as well as suggesting how to pray well. It is intended for beginners, whether sharing in community or praying the hours alone. It can be used as a self-tutorial or a workbook for a small group. It will be of value for most English speaking editions of the breviary, or its smaller editions.”

The chapters in the book are:

Getting Started
     1 - Introduction to Morning, Evening and Night Prayers
     2 - Understanding Your Office Book
     3 - Where to Start for Evening Prayer
     4 - Morning Prayer and Night Prayer
     5 - Understanding the Printed Psalter Page
     6 - Enhancing your Prayer

An earlier version of this volume was originally published in 1993, the CTS Booklet number is D625, The Prayer of the Church: A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. After reading that one researching for the review I discover that this updated edition of this volume called Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer: How to Pray the Prayer of the Church published in 2008 and released as an eBook in 2017. It has booklet number D671 and comes in at nearly twice the page count. But a quick comparison and the table of contents is the same. I picked up the eBook of this volume and gave it a read for comparison. I did not regret picking up the earlier edition as I tracked it down used and it appears to be signed and dedicated by the author. But back to this newer edition for reviewing purposes. 

There are several things to like about this volume. First it is written so that you can use it as a guide and starting point for praying the hours or even the whole breviary. It is written in a generic enough fashion that you can use various editions or printings of the Hours, and still use this as a guide. The author makes mention to American or UK editions a few times throughout the book. And the back cover makes mention of British, Irish or American editions. I have been using this guide with the CTS Divine Worship Daily Office Ordinariates established by Anglicanorum Coetibus from the Catholic Truth Society edition. 

Another excellent feature is that it is short and sweet. The lessons are clear and concise. And at the end of each of the 6 lessons are questions and exercises, so you can practice what you have learned. The questions are identical in both editions of this booklet. I know that these days many people use apps for the Hours, but for those who wish to still use books this is an excellent volume. I made note of several passages while working through the earlier edition of this booklet. Some of them are:

“The seven hours of the old breviary did not contain precisely the same sequence of readings, psalms, and prayers as those of today’s Office, but the idea of praying and praising regularly with the whole Church is exactly the same.”

“In addition to the tradition of praying seven times a day is another tradition of praying three times a day. In Psalm 54 (55) the psalmist talks of turning to God three times a day (morning, noon and evening) as does Daniel (Dan 6:10). This was originally linked to the Jewish tradition of three temple-sacrifices each day, but the tradition continues in the Christian Church. In praying the psalm-based hours regularly through the day we become part of this long tradition maintained by God’s people as he guides them through the centuries.”

“It is probably a mistake to think of your book in the same light as books which are begun at the beginning and read to the end. It is better to think of it as containing several distinct sections, each of which has a different purpose. Try thinking of a loose-leaf file with different subjects, a Filofax or personal organizer, or a Sunday newspaper with several supplements. You then have a better idea of how your book has been edited and put together.”

“This lesson (6) looks at ways of praying the hours thoughtfully and personally. By using the Office book imaginatively you praise God more fervently, are nourished by his Words more fruitfully, and are present more attentively to him in prayer. Not all ways of praise and prayer fit each person. Always look to improve your prayer. Don’t be afraid to try other methods, but at the same time don’t think that there is anything wrong is a particular way of prayer doesn’t seem to fit.”

And the passage that I found struck me the hardest was:

“The regular habit of praying the hours is a great strength. Such habits carry us through the bad patches, and build our confidence in the good.

What should be avoided is that prayer becomes merely habit, that the words come out without thought, without feeling and without personal intent."

This is an excellent little read I have read both the paperback of the original and the eBook of the newer version. If you are interested I would recommend the newer edition, unless you want this original offering. A great little tool for praying the hours. The two editions aver very similar, a few changes in order, some slight differences in working. The getting Started Section in this volume states:

“One of the beautiful ways in which prayer is growing today is by an ever-increasing number of people in many different places coming together to pray the hours of the Prayer of the Church. Previously these were usually prayed only by priests and religious.

This tutorial is intended for those who are starting to pray the Morning, Evening or Night Prayers of the Church. It is suitable whether you are praying these ‘hours’ of prayer alone or in community with others. It can be used as a self guide or as a work-book for a small group. Where possible do try to work through and pray with at least one other person. It does help.

A variety of editions and books (Office books) are available which contain Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer of the Church e.g. Daily Prayer, Morning & Evening Prayer, Shorter Morning & Evening Prayer, “Three-Volume Divine Office”, and their equivalent American editions (such as Christian Prayer). It is hoped that this tutorial will be of use to you, whichever edition or book you pray from. Each lesson should be worked through carefully, and the exercises completed before moving on to the next.

This booklet is a revised edition of the 1993 original, which now contains extra references and websites to further help the reader.

Rob Taylerson, February 2005”

And that section ends with these words: 

“‘In prayer, united with Jesus - your brother, your friend, your Saviour, your God - you begin to breathe a new atmosphere’ from St John Paul II

It was wonderful to use this in conjunction with the CTS Divine Worship Daily Office and really play and learn my way around the hours. If you are just starting out this is an excellent resource. I highly recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Devotions series click here.

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