One of my favorite times of day is the close of breakfast, when I open up The Divine Hours and read the morning prayers with my nearly 2-year-old. While she finishes up her cereal she’s happy to listen to me pray the daily readings out loud. She is even learning how to join in; if I start reciting “The Lord is…” she knows what comes next: “King!”
The Divine Hours books (there are three main ones) consist of short passages of Scripture and prayers from the Book of Common Prayer arranged in 2-page daily liturgies. Each set of readings starts with a call to prayer from the Psalms and ends with the weekly collect from the BCP. In between there are more Psalm selections, a short reading from another part of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, and occasionally another historical prayer from Augustine or another source. In the evening the text of a hymn is also included.
At our house we most consistently use the readings for morning (at the close of breakfast) and noon (at the close of lunch). Sometimes we use the evening readings as family worship before our daughter’s bedtime, and my husband and I occasionally get into the habit of reading Compline together before we turn off the lights and sleep. All that to say that even though there are four sets of readings every day, there’s no reason why you can’t just do one or two. For that matter, there’s no reason that you can’t shorten, lengthen, or add to the readings, either.
If it’s not clear by now, no, The Divine Hours are not children’s books. So why are we including them in Aslan’s Library? When Sarah and I talked about what to write about during Lent this year, we decided to include some resources to help families practice some of the traditional Lenten practices: prayer, reflection, confession, and Scripture reading. I know of no better resource to help families do those four things together than the Divine Hours series, so kidlit or not it made the list!
The sets of readings in these books are short enough for a young child’s attention span and substantive enough for an adult; they’re not targeted to children per se but as the Word of God they are appropriate for ears of all ages. The youngest children will likely just be soaking it all in, but older children can participate in refrains and the Lord’s Prayer or even take turns reading aloud. Best of all, these books will help every member of the family learn to come to Scripture in a posture of prayer. They will help you worship together, pray together, repent together, feed yourselves on the Word together, and humble yourself before the Sovereign God together.
I do have a few quibbles with The Divine Hours. For one, they use the New Jerusalem Bible and BCP Psalter, which are not my preferred translations. Secondly, the evening reading typically contains a hymn, but every so often there is a poem in its place that either goes over my head or I find objectionable in some way. Thirdly, very occasionally (rarely, really) there is a prayer or reading that runs contrary to Protestant theology. But even considering these things, I truly love these books. If you’re looking for a way to incorporate prayer into your family’s life in a fresh and meaningful way this Lenten season, I warmly commend them to you!
Below are the links to the three core books in the series. There are a couple of extra ones in the series (one specifically for Advent/Christmas and one for Lent/Easter, for example), but the material they contain is entirely found in these three volumes:
- The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime (February-May)
- The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (June-September)
- The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (October-January)