Art of Prayer
Pope Urges Laity to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
by Catholic News Service
Pope John Paul II called for greater promotion among Christian lay people of the Liturgy of the Hours, traditional daily prayers structured around the Psalms.
He said the Psalter was the "ideal source" of Christian prayer, to which the Church should turn to deepen its "art of prayer" in the third millennium.
Speaking to pilgrims March 28, 2001, at the weekly general audience, the pope said he was beginning a series of talks on the Psalter "to encourage and to help everyone pray with the same words used by Jesus, which have been present for millennia in the prayer of Israel and of the Church."
He said it was encouraging that many lay people in the wake of the Second Vatican Council had begun to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a practice once restricted to priests and religious.
Since the first centuries, Christians turned to the Psalms as "the prayer of the people of God," and early Church theologians understood the texts as speaking ultimately of Christ, he said.
In the intervening centuries, the Psalter was sometimes put aside in favor of other prayers, but was kept alive by monastic communities, he said.
One monk, at the turn of the second millennium, went so far as to assert that the Psalms are the "only way" to experience a truly profound prayer, said the pope.
"With this affirmation, which at first seems excessive, he in reality remained anchored in the best traditions of the first Christian centuries, when the Psalter became the book par excellence of Church prayer," he said.
The pope said the communal recitation of the Psalms throughout the centruies also served to remind Christians that it is impossible to pray to God "without an authentic communion of life with the brothers and sisters who inhabit the earth."
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours in no way excludes other "freer expressions" that characterize personal prayer, said the pope.
In fact, those expressions can even enrich liturgical prayer, for example, with hymns.
General Church law in the Latin rite requires ordained ministers -- bishops, priests and deacons -- to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily.
Some religious orders and lay institutes require their members to observe this prayer.
Church norms encourage all Catholics to make especially the primary hours of Morning and Evening Prayer part of their prayer life.
See Universal Music for Evening Prayer CNP Catalog #3101