Charles de Foucauld (1858 – 1916) was a French soldier, explorer, and Catholic priest who lived from 1858-1916 until his assassination. During the last portion of his life, he lived as a hermit among the Tuareg people of Algeria. de Foucauld was the author of an affirmation about worship which has graced the inside of my Bible.
I must say my Office with great care. It is my daily offering of fresh flowers to the Beloved Spouse.
I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this quote. I do remember how it has charmed me since. I have loved the idea that prayer is like a bouquet that I bring to God. Carefully chosen and arranged. For God’s pleasure and not mine. Only one purpose in mind, and that is to bring delight to God. Certainly not to ask God for a favor.
The Daily Office has been the most perfect way for me to cut this bouquet of flowers for God. Not that I am a good model of this. I’m not. However, I feel the greatest delight when approaching God with nothing but God’s pleasure in mind. No petitions or requests. Just worship.
People have been praying in this manner for centuries. A Psalmist wrote that he prays seven times a day. Daniel, we are told, prayed three times a day. Imagine pausing at prescribed moments, just moments, during the day to pray. Western Christians can’t imagine such pauses. We imagine we are too busy to do this. How arrogant we are! Thinking that anything we want to do is more important than God.
“Saying my office with great care,” is de Foucauld’s way of saying, “thoughtful, intentional, prepared, excellently.” Our Muslim neighbors pause during their days to pray. A prayer mat is part of their daily equipment because they know they are going to pray. No doubt about it. They can’t imagine themselves not praying.
Daniel nearly lost his life because of his commitment to this simple discipline. Amazing, isn’t it, that we Americans think we’re too important to do this?
Praying the Hours is an acquired taste. We who like impromptu prayers, prayers that concentrate on our own wants, find the God-centered prayers of the Hours to be inconvenient or off-putting. “Don’t tell me what to pray,” we say. But we fail to experience the growth that occurs when we strip all our prayers of self and focus on God.
Though it seems odd to me, I find that the practice of speaking softly the words of the prayers increases my attention and concentration in a way that reading them silently doesn’t. Take my word for this; it is powerful to speak the prayers.
If you want a way to break into this practice. Jim and Monika Grasley recommend a few free apps that are quite good:
I hope you will take a month to experiment with praying the hours. Do it every day for at least a month. Start out with just the morning or evening prayers and increase daily frequency as you feel inclined to do so. You might be surprised at what you learn.