How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

In the Roman Catholic Church priests are required by canon law to pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours each day while deacons are required to pray the morning and evening hours. The practice among religious communities varies according to their rules and constitutions. The Second Vatican Council also exhorted the Christian laity to take up the practice, and as a result, many lay people have begun reciting portions of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Current Roman Catholic usage focuses on three major hours and from two to four minor hours:

  • The Office of Readings or the Officium lectionis (formerly Matins), major hour
  • Morning Prayer or Lauds, major hour
  • Daytime Prayer, which can be one or all of:
      * Midmorning Prayer or Terce 
      * Midday Prayer or Sext
      * Midafternoon Prayer or None
  • Evening Prayer or Vespers, major hour
  • Night Prayer or Compline

All hours, including the minor hours start with the verse Ps 69/70 v.2:

God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.

Followed by the doxology:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia.

The verse is omitted if the hour (either Morning Prayer or Office of Reading) begins with the Invitatory.

The Invitatory is the introduction to the first hour said on the current day, whether it be the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer.

The opening is followed by a hymn. The hymn is followed by psalmody. The psalmody is followed by a scripture reading. The reading is called a chapter (capitula) if it is short, or a lesson (lectio) if it is long. The reading is followed by a versicle. The hour is closed by an oration followed by a concluding versicle. Other components are included depending on the exact type of hour being celebrated.

In each office, the psalms and canticle are framed by antiphons, and each concludes with the traditional Catholic doxology.

Major hours

The major hours consist of the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer (or Lauds) and Evening Prayer (or Vespers).

The Office of Readings consists of:

  • opening versicle or invitatory
  • a hymn
  • one or two long psalms divided into three parts
  • a long passage from scripture, usually arranged so that in any one week, all the readings come from the same text
  • a long hagiographical passage, such as an account of a saint’s martyrdom, or a theological treatise commenting on some aspect of the scriptural reading, or a passage from the documents of the Second Vatican Council
  • on nights preceding Sundays and feast days, the office may be expanded to a vigil by inserting three Old Testament canticles and a reading from the gospels
  • the hymn Te Deum (On Sundays outside Lent, on days within the octaves of Easter and Christmas, and on solemnities and feasts)
  • the concluding prayer
  • a short concluding verse (especially when prayed in groups)

The character of Morning Prayer is that of praise; of Evening Prayer, that of thanksgiving. Both follow a similar format:

  • opening versicle or (for morning prayer) the invitatory
  • a hymn, composed by the Church
  • two psalms, or parts of psalms with a scriptural canticle. At Morning Prayer, this consists of a psalm of praise, a canticle from the Old Testament, followed by another psalm. At Evenning Prayer this consists of two psalms, or one psalm divided into two parts, and a scriptural canticle taken from the New Testament.
  • a short passage from scripture
  • a responsory, typically a verse of scripture, but sometimes liturgical poetry
  • a canticle taken from the Gospel of Luke: the Canticle of Zechariah (Benedictus) for morning prayer, and the Canticle of Mary (Magnificat) for evening prayer
  • intercessions, composed by the Church
  • the Lord’s Prayer
  • the concluding prayer, composed by the Church
  • a blessing given by the priest or deacon leading Morning or Evening Prayer, or in the absence of clergy and in individual recitation, a short concluding versicle.

An Invitatory precedes the canonical hours of the day beginning with the versicle:
Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth will proclaim your praise (Ps 50/51 v.17), and continuing with an antiphon and the Invitatory Psalm, usually Psalm 95.

All psalms and canticles are accompanied by antiphons.

Unless the Invitatory is used, each Hour begins with the versicle:
God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me. (Ps 69/70 v.2), followed by a hymn. Each Hour concludes with a prayer followed by a short versicle and response.

Matins or the Office of Readings is the longest hour. Before Pope St. Pius X’s reform, it involved the recitation of 18 psalms on Sundays and 12 on ferial days. Pope Pius X reduced this to 9 psalms or portions of psalms, still arranged in three “nocturns”, each set of three psalms followed by three short readings, usually three consecutive sections from the same text. Pope Paul VI’s reform reduced the number of psalms or portions of psalms to three, and the readings to two, but lengthened these. On feast days the Te Deum is sung or recited before the concluding prayer.

After St. Pius X’s reform, the Morning Prayer was reduced to four psalms or portions of psalms and an Old Testament canticle, putting an end to the custom of adding the last three psalms of the Psalter (148-150) at the end of Lauds every day. The number of psalms or portions of psalms is now reduced to two, together with one Old Testament canticle chosen from a wider range than before. After these there is a short reading and response and the singing or recitation of the Benedictus.

The Evening Prayer has a very similar structure, differing in that Pius X assigned to it five psalms (now reduced to 2 psalms and a New Testament canticle) and the Magnificat took the place of the Benedictus. On some days in Pius X’s arrangement, but now always, there follow Preces or intercessions. In the present arrangement, the Lord’s Prayer is also recited before the concluding prayer.

Midmorning, Midday and Midafternoon Prayers have an identical structure, each with three psalms or portions of psalms. These are followed by a short reading from Scripture, once referred to as a “little chapter” (capitulum), and by a versicle and response. The Lesser Litany (Kyrie and the Lord’s Prayer) of Pius X’s arrangement have now been omitted.

Prime (which is now suppressed and gone) and Night Prayer (Compline) also were of similar structure, though different from Midmorning, Midday and Midafternoon (Terce, Sext and None).

The English translation of The Liturgy of the Hours (Four Volumes) ©1974, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. Readings and Old and New Testament Canticles (except the Gospel Canticles) are from the New American Bible © 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.. Used with permission. All rights reserved. The website, podcast, apps and all related media follows the liturgical calendar for the United States. The 1970 edition of the New American Bible as published in the Liturgy of the Hours is approved for use only in the United States. website, podcast, apps and all related media is © 2006-2021 Surgeworks, Inc. All rights reserved.

64 thoughts on “How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

  1. Pingback: Http Divineoffice Org Login – Login6

  2. Thank you so much for together prayer I am a bit slow at this but I will eventually get it , it’s wonderful and so peacfull receiting this and hearing other prayer voices . Prayers Veronica

  3. I am wondering the timing involved for religious who go through all of these in one day. Do different orders do it differently? Do Parrish priest follows some typical schedule? I just thought it could be s personal retreat to do them all on a day. My wife and I listen to the office of readings at night.

    • According to __ Traditionally, there are seven hours of prayer in the day and a night prayer. These prayer times are about three hours apart: Lauds (3am), Prime (6am), Terce (9am), Sext (noon), None (3pm), Vespers (evening), Compline (before going to bed), and Matins (Midnight).

      After Vatican II, the Divine Office was updated and simplified, and became know as the Liturgy of the Hours. While usually considered the obligatory prayer of clergy and those in monastic orders, the revised Liturgy of the Hours is meant to be prayed by all people. Celebrating morning prayer and evening prayer has become a common parish practice.

      Three prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours are taken from the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Morning prayer includes the “Benedictus” (the prayer recited by John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah); evening prayer includes the “Magnificat” (which Mary recited when she visited her cousin Elizabeth); and night prayer includes the “Nunc Dimittis” (Simeon’s prayer at the presentation of Jesus at the Temple).

      • As for the laity praying on thier own, how much time do you spend for each of the hours?

  4. I really appreciate this website. It has been a true blessing in preparing for our Thursday evening prayer. What would be helpful is to include rubrics – when to sit, when to stand. Is that possible? Or can an explanation of those be added to “how to pray” section.

  5. I have noticed that the hymns we song on this website are usually not contained in my four volume Liturgy of the Hours. I was curious how that works? Is there an approved list of hymns somewhere else? Do you use the ones from the single volume Christian Prayer on this website? I love praying along with you, it makes me feel like I’m praying with a congregation. God Bless.

    • Hello, The hymns are one of the few places where Divine Office is allowed flexibility. Just as in the Mass we select appropriate hymns so we also do the Liturgy of the Hours. The music we are using now for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer especially is the music intended for the Liturgy of the Hours. They are translations of the original Latin to English penned by our church fathers specifically for the Divine Office. They are theologically paired to the liturgy. God bless!

  6. Absolutely love this version of the Liturgy of the Hours.
    Thought I saw something about slowing down the Hours so I can meditate better but can not find it any more. If there is such a thing? If so could you please repeat it.
    Thank you and God bless,

  7. I am reading from the Litrugy of the hours, while I listen to your wonderful recordings. I like being able to navigate through the volume.
    The one thing I can’t seem to find is the concluding prayers.

    Thank you for all you do! This is a wonderful tool, and helps me every day!

  8. Thank you for persevering through all the trials you must have had from the time you began this ministry. Having the Liturgy of Hours in audio, being prayed by a group of prayerful people, is a blessing that inspires my heart to pray the Office. It seems that the Lord provides you with more and more beautiful hymns, songs and inspired psalms as the years go by.

    • Great question! All who can normally stand for the Gospel Canticle: the Benedictus of MP, the Magnificat of EP, and the Nunc Dimittis of NP. Traditionally, they also stand for the prayers from the beginning of the Hours until the start of the first psalm. Then, they sit. Most communities resume sitting after the Gospel Canticle, then stand for the Lord’s Prayer and Dismissal. There are variations, and those who need to may sit.

    • Thanks for asking! The Te Deum is said on Sundays, solemnities and feasts. To find out which dates have solemnities or feasts, check any Catholic calendar, online or print version.

  9. Having trouble learning how to pray the Christian Prayer Large type edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. I have Edition #407/10

    However I have guide 2019 for # 406/G What I need is the guide 2019 for # 407/10 but can’t seem to be able to find it.

    This book is very confusing to follow and if I am not on the internet and dependent on the book , I am totally lost. Help Help

    • don’t get discourage, keep praying! It takes awhile to learn the format of the book, where ribbons should be, etc. God knows your heart’s intention and He will enlighten your knowledge of the prayer book in His time. Read and reread the instructions until it sinks in, even if it takes a year, which is how long it took me (I’m very slow, lol). If you happen to pray the wrong readings on a particular day, it may be that you needed to learn something from that day. Trust and Persevere in prayer…one day, you won’t need the guide anymore…thanks be to God!

    • Dear WaltMar,
      The LotH is complicated, but you can follow the guide you have (#406/G).

      From the Catholic Company website, publication #406/G is the guide for the one-volume “Christian Prayer” (the Liturgy of the Hours). So you have the guide for CP in regular print size. The guide for your large print edition (#407/10) is #407/G.

      But the only difference between the guides is print size. The page numbers are the same.

      Take an example. This site ( gives the page references for Christian Prayer. We see that tonight’s Night Prayer reference is:
      Christian Prayer:
      Page 1052

      That means that Friday Night Prayer starts on p. 1052 in Christian Prayer, regardless of print size. And that’s where I am going to start Night Prayer in a few minutes.

      I hope this helps, at least a little (I learned a few things by working it out!). And I hope you keep at it. The rewards are great. As another commentor says, if you don’t do it perfectly, God will take your intentions into account.


      • I am a bit confused since I can never find the correct pages for each of the Hours. I have the four volume large print version but when I sit down and pray I can never find the correct page in my breviary. I started praying the Divine Office on the week we were quarantined for Covid19 and I promised myself to do so on a daily basis. What can I do to find the specific pages for each hour for the correct dates? I follow the Saint Joseph Guide and read 3 different books in addition to the tutorials on You Tube but I am still lost and confused. Books read: the Divine Office for Dodos by Madeline Pecora Nugent, A Practical Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours by Shirley Sullivan and the Divine Office by Rev. EJ Quigley. In addition I follow Bishop Robert Barron’s live recitation of the Divine Office on EWTN. Please help I really want to learn to pray the DO and use my 4 volume set.

  10. My day starts here. It is a blessing to have this at my disposal. Since singing is praying twice, I thank those who chant.
    May your ministry continue to help many people like myself.

  11. I am in bed mostly n chronic pain and a number of lung chest throat n stomach and back issues. Cannot express how much this site blesses me. Thank you for this site and bless all who keep it up. It means a lot to me and many like me. Keep comments positive. We need to encourage one another. I can’t wait to see His face!

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