Just finished a really fine book by Robert Benson, "In Constant Prayer." This is an introduction to the whole concept of what we Catholics call the Liturgy of the Hours. Benson was brought up in the Nazarene tradition (he's now Episcopalian) and writes for a non-Catholic readership, but I suspect that many Catholics could profit from this beautifully written presentation. (It helps that Benson is a poet.)
Benson noted in an early chapter that on his morning drive to the store to pick up the papers he reads daily (hey, writers have to read!), he would pass several houses of worship. At that early hour, between 6:30 and 7:00 each morning, he noticed that the parking lots were busy as worshipers streamed back to their cars and went off to work. They were beginning the day with prayer as a community. He also noted that the houses of worship were: a mosque, a synagogue, and a Catholic Church. The churches of his own tradition were not the sites of such daily activity. But many Protestants are beginning to adopt the ancient prayer that Catholics and Orthodox Christians inherited from Judaism. And many Catholics are learning how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or are joining in morning prayer in their parish before daily Mass.
It never was supposed to be just for monks, deacons and priests: we are all supposed to be participating in the prayer that the Body of Christ (that would be us) offers to the Father. Believe it or not, for about a thousand years, everyone was expected to come to Church daily for morning prayer: it was part of being a believer! That started getting lost at the time of the Renaissance; the Reformation finished the job in many places. (I recall from reading some early writings of our Founder that at least in Italy in the late 1800's, parishioners were expected on Sundays to attend not just the Mass, but also Evening Prayer in their local Church.)
Benson's book comes some years after he published a kind of introductory version of "fixed-hour" prayerbook. It offered first steps in what the ancient monks (and also Vatican II) spoke of as sanctifying the whole day. His book, and a similar one by Phyllis Tickle, enjoyed a really good distribution. What I think we are beginning to see in these years is a rediscovery of the value of what is called by many names: the Divine Office, the Breviary, Lauds and Vespers, fixed-time prayer. It would be an important renewal in Christian living: we seem to be one of the first generations of Christians who do not typically recollect ourselves two, three or the biblical seven times a day in prayer--not the "gimme" kind of prayer, but the prayer of simple praise. And in the Liturgy of the Hours, that praise does not have to depend on one's feelings of exaltation or gladness: the words of praise and thanks have been given to us right in the book of Psalms, which the Hours use as the primary prayer book.
Do you pray some form of the Liturgy of the Hours? What has your experience been? How many "hours" (set brief prayer periods) do you pray, and where?