Our book reviewer today is my wife, Denise. Read her blog at Denise Day Spencer.
I have, in the past few months, become enamored with the idea of praying at various times during the day–not because I want to be more pious than the next person, but because I need it.
And so Michael recently presented me with a book: The Divine Hours Pocket Edition…on the condition that I would review it. Sounds like a good deal to me! I’m not the one in the family who usually does book reviews, but here goes.
I have not used Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. Upon reading her “Introduction to This Manual,” however, I quickly saw that the Pocket Edition is just that–a drastically condensed version of The Divine Hours that a person can easily keep in a suitcase or purse when traveling, or on other occasions when it would be too difficult to take along a complete book. She makes it clear that “no pocket edition is an entirely satisfactory substitute for a complete breviary or prayer manual, nor is it intended to be.”
The Divine Hours Pocket Edition is, like its greater companion, a guide to “fixed-hour prayer.” You may have also called it “observing the hours” or “keeping the offices.” There are seven offices in each 24-hour day. Tickle is quick to explain that it’s a rare lay Christian who can or would want to observe all seven, so she recommends selecting the hours that best fit in with an individual’s schedule and lifestyle. (In other words, no guilt trips necessary if you don’t feel like praying at 3:00 a.m. That’s a relief!)
The Pocket Edition contains basically one week’s worth of prayers. Because the book is designed to be used at any time of the year, in the back there is a bonus: “Traditional, Seasonal and Occasional Prayers.” Traditional prayers are intended as extra selections if the reader wants to include one or more as a part of a particular petition or prayer of thanks. Seasonal prayers make the Pocket Edition more flexible by including readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; Lent, Holy Week and Easter; Ascension; Pentecost; All Saints Day and Thanksgiving. Occasional prayers are just that–prayers for special occasions. Examples are readings for weddings, illness, birth and death.
Tickle’s text comes mainly from the Book of Common Prayer and the writings of the Church Fathers. It includes the words of St. Ambrose, Fanny J. Crosby, St. Augustine, and William Cowper, just to name a few.
The Divine Hours Pocket Edition is very straightforward and easy to use. That’s one of the reasons that when we take a four-day trip later this week, it’s going with me. Thank you, Ms. Tickle and Oxford University Press.
The web site with The Divine Hours for each day is a great place to get a look at what these wonderful books hold in store for you.
Before the introduction, the book cites Psalm 119:164: “Seven times each day I praise you for the justice of your decrees.” I don’t know if I’ll ever work up to all seven, but The Divine Hours Pocket Edition has inspired me to make a stab at a beginning.