Regular prayer and the reading of Holy Scripture are fundamentals of the Christian life. This I have known since I became a Christian, but I have not always found it easy to practice. After many years of seeking a way to become faithful in these basic practices, I arrived at this method, which is a form which I believe embodies the way I can best relate to God. The order of prayer and Scripture reading that I follow will not be fruitful for everyone; the Lord knows best how to work with each soul. But I offer it here in case anyone else might find it useful.
I find I pray best in a structured setting. The book of Psalms has been the basis of the Church’s prayer from the beginning, and rightly so. In inspiring the Psalms and making them a part of Holy Scripture, the Lord reveals to us how He wants us to pray to him. In seeking to base my life of prayer on the Psalms, I first turned to the Church’s own prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours. For an individual lay person living in the world, however, the Liturgy of the Hours has a number of limitations. It is designed as common prayer, not as individual prayer, and in order to receive the entire benefit of the Liturgy, one must celebrate several hours at different times of day; an excellent practice, no doubt, but one to which it is difficult for a secular person to remain faithful. Moreover, I noticed as I studied the Liturgy of the Hours that the version currently in use in the Church did not contain the entire Psalter. In fact, an entire theme of the Psalms, the “cursing” theme, has been excised. This went against my desire to experience and live the whole Word of God. Therefore I set out to construct a single daily prayer time, based on a rotation through all 150 psalms, that would embody the spirit of the Divine Office in, as it were, a condensed and simplified form. The file here contains the outline of Morning and Night prayer, and the rotation of Psalms through a 6-week cycle. As I use it, I also have a book of collects for various days of the week, seasons of the year, and commemorations of the saints. Those are not given here because they are protected by various copyrights and therefore it would be wrong for me to publish them. Most are taken from the Liturgy of the Hours. I must also add one important acknowledgement. The formation of this order of prayer was strongly influenced by the prayer life of an ecumenical brotherhood of celibate men, The Servants of the Word, whom I have known for many years and with whom I was blessed to visit and stay with frequently around the time I was developing this method. The order for Night Prayer, in particular, was taken almost directly from their life.
While from time to time I have felt inspired to read a certain book of the Bible or to study a certain theme in Scriptural teaching, if I waited for the occasional inspiration I would probably neglect what is one of the most important ways of knowing and hearing God. When I was a new Christian, I began by simply reading the Bible from beginning to end. This did not seem to me the best way to keep immersed in Scripture over the long haul. The readings from Scripture found in the liturgy, whether the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours, while they have often been for me the occasion of great revelations of God in the Holy Spirit, are not suited for systematic reading. Beyond the hearing of the proclamation of the Word, I felt the need to be more grounded in the Word. There are a number of plans for the systematic and regular reading of the Bible, mostly Protestant in inspiration, but most of them do not include the entire Catholic canon of Scripture, nor do they follow the pattern of the liturgical year. Therefore I made up my own. I developed it over the course of several years, first picking out a sequence of books, then dividing up the books as I went along. The resulting reading plan covers the Old Testament in two years and the New Testament in one. At certain seasons of the Church year, books suitable to that season are read every year. The plan includes one or two chapters of the Old Testament each day, and between one-half and one chapter of the New Testament. There are two readings every day, except during Lent, when there are three. The readings fit into the order of prayer discussed above. I have adopted a practice, which I read of many years ago in an article written by an excellent Christian leader I know, of praying a section of Psalm 119, which is a poem in praise of God’s Word, before each day’s readings.