Fixed prayer times
Jewish law requires Jews to pray thrice a day; the morning prayer is known as Shacharit, the afternoon prayer is known as Mincha, and the evening prayer is known as Maariv. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Abraham introduced Shacharit, the prophet Isaac introduced Mincha, and the prophet Jacob introduced Maariv. Jews historically prayed in the direction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, where the "presence of the transcendent God (shekinah) [resided] in the Holy of Holies of the Temple". In the Bible, it is written that when the prophet Daniel was in Babylon, he "went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open to Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously" (cf. Daniel 6:10). After its destruction, Jews continue to pray facing Jerusalem in hope for the coming of the Messiah whom they await.
From the time of the early Church, the practice of seven fixed prayer times have been taught. In Apostolic Tradition, Hippolytus instructed Christians to pray seven times a day, "on rising, at the lighting of the evening lamp, at bedtime, at midnight" and "the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day, being hours associated with Christ's Passion." Christians attended the liturgy on the Lord's Day, worshipping communally in both the morning and evening. They prayed privately throughout the rest of the week, with the exception of Christian monastics who gathered for prayer corporately. This practice of seven fixed prayer times was done in the bodily positions of prostration and standing, which continues today in some Christian denominations, especially those of Oriental Christianity.
Oriental Orthodox Christians (such as Copts and Indians), as well as members of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church (an Oriental Protestant denomination), use a breviary such as the Agpeya and Shehimo to pray the canonical hours seven times a day while facing in the eastward direction, in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus; this Christian practice has its roots in Psalm 118:164, in which the prophet David prays to God seven times a day. In the Indian Christian and Syriac Christian tradition, these canonical hours are known as Vespers (Ramsho [6 pm]), Compline (Soutoro [9 pm]), Nocturns (Lilio [12 am]), Matins (Sapro [6 am]), third hour prayer (Tloth sho`in [9 am]), sixth hour prayer (Sheth sho`in [12 pm]), and ninth hour prayer (Tsha' sho`in [3 pm]). In the Coptic Christian and Ethiopian Christian tradition, these seven canonical hours are known as the First Hour (Prime [6 am]), the Third Hour (Terce [9 am]), the Sixth Hour (Sext [12 pm]), the Ninth Hour (None [3 pm]), the Eleventh Hour (Vespers [6 pm]), the Twelfth Hour (Compline [9 pm]), and the Midnight office [12 am]; monastics pray an additional hour known as the Veil. Church bells are tolled at these hours to enjoin the faithful to Christian prayer. Those who are unable to pray canonical hour of a certain fixed prayer time may recite the Qauma, in the Indian Orthodox tradition.[note 1]
In Western Christianity and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the practice of praying the canonical hours at fixed prayer times became mainly observed by monastics and clergy, though today, the Catholic Church encourages the laity to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and in the Lutheran Churches and Anglican Communion, breviaries such as The Brotherhood Prayer Book and the Anglican Breviary, respectively, are used to pray the Daily Office; the Methodist tradition has emphasized the praying of the canonical hours as an "essential practice" in being a disciple of Jesus.
Many Christians have historically hung a Christian cross the eastern wall of their houses, which they face during these seven fixed prayer times. Before praying, Oriental Orthodox Christians and Oriental Protestant Christians wash their hands, face and feet in order to be clean before and present their best to God; shoes are removed in order to acknowledge that one is offering prayer before a holy God. In these Christian denominations, and in many others as well, it is customary for women to wear a Christian headcovering when praying.
Muslims pray five times a day, with their prayers being known as Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (after midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset), Isha (nighttime), facing towards Mecca. The direction of prayer is called the qibla; the early Muslims initially prayed in the direction of Jerusalem before this was changed to Mecca in 624 CE, about a year after Muhammad's migration to Medina.
The timing of the five prayers are fixed intervals defined by daily astronomical phenomena. For example, the Maghrib prayer can be performed at any time after sunset and before the disappearance of the red twilight from the west. In a mosque, the muezzin broadcasts the call to prayer at the beginning of each interval. Because the start and end times for prayers are related to the solar diurnal motion, they vary throughout the year and depend on the local latitude and longitude when expressed in local time.[note 2] In modern times, various religious or scientific agencies in Muslim countries produce annual prayer timetables for each locality, and electronic clocks capable of calculating local prayer times have been created. In the past, some mosques employed astronomers called the muwaqqits who were responsible for regulating the prayer time using mathematical astronomy.
The five intervals were defined by Muslim authorities in the decades after the death of Muhammad in 632, based on the hadith (the reported sayings and actions) of the Islamic prophet. According to Justin Paul Heinz, the five fixed prayer times in Islamic prayer were likely influenced by the canonical hours of Oriental Orthodox Christians (who were regarded as Monophysites) in the 4th century who prayed seven times a day, given the extensive contact that Muhammad and his companions had with Syrian Christian monks. Abu Bakr and other early followers of Muhammad were exposed to these fixed times of prayer of the Syrian Christians in Abyssinia and likely relayed their observations to Muhammad, "placing the potential for Christian influence directly within the Prophet’s circle of followers and leaders."
- In the tradition of the Indian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox denomination, the Qauma can be prayed for those whom are unable to recite the canonical hours contained in the Shehimo breviary; the Qauma is always recited at the start of each canonical hour in the Shehimo.
- For the day-to-day variation of the prayer times, see, for example, a prayer timetable for Banyuasin, Indonesia, for the month of Ramadan in 2012.
- Mindel, Nissan (2020). "The Three Daily Prayers". Kehot Publication Society. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- Peters, F. E. (2005). The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II: The Words and Will of God. Princeton University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-691-12373-8.
At first, the prayers were said facing Jerusalem, as the Jews did--Christians faced toward the East--but later the direction of prayer, the qibla, was changed toward the Kaaba at Mecca.
- Lang, Uwe Michael (2009). Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer. Ignatius Press. p. 36–37. ISBN 978-1-58617-341-8.
Jews in the Diaspora prayed towards Jerusalem, or, more precisely, towards the presence of the transcendent God (shekinah) in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. For instance, Daniel in Babylon 'went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open to Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously' (Dan 6:10). Even after the destruction of the Temple, the prevailing custom of turning towards Jerusalem for prayer was kept in the liturgy of the synagogue. Thus Jews have expressed their eschatological hope for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the gathering of God's people from the Diaspora.
- Mary Cecil, 2nd Baroness Amherst of Hackney (1906). A Sketch of Egyptian History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Methuen. p. 399.
Prayers 7 times a day are enjoined, and the most strict among the Copts recite one of more of the Psalms of David each time they pray. They always wash their hands and faces before devotions, and turn to the East.
- Shehimo: Book of Common Prayer. Diocese of South-West America of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. 2016. p. 5.
We pray standing upright while facing East as we collect our thoughts on God.
- Danielou, Jean (2016). Origen. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4982-9023-4.
Peterson quotes a passage from the Acts of Hipparchus and Philotheus: "In Hipparchus's house there was a specially decorated room and a cross was painted on the east wall of it. There before the image of the cross, they used to pray seven times a day ... with their faces turned to the east." It is easy to see the importance of this passage when you compare it with what Origen says. The custom of turning towards the rising sun when praying had been replaced by the habit of turning towards the east wall. This we find in Origen. From the other passage we see that a cross had been painted on the wall to show which was the east. Hence the origin of the practice of hanging crucifixes on the walls of the private rooms in Christian houses. We know too that signs were put up in the Jewish synagogues to show the direction of Jerusalem, because the Jews turned that way when they said their prayers. The question of the proper way to face for prayer has always been of great importance in the East. It is worth remembering that Mohammedans pray with their faces turned towards Mecca and that one reason for the condemnation of Al Hallaj, the Mohammedan martyr, was that he refused to conform to this practice.
- Henry Chadwick (1993). The Early Church. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-101-16042-8.
Hippolytus in the Apostolic Tradition directed that Christians should pray seven times a day - on rising, at the lighting of the evening lamp, at bedtime, at midnight, and also, if at home, at the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day, being hours associated with Christ's Passion. Prayers at the third, sixth, and ninth hours are similarly mentioned by Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and must have been very widely practised. These prayers were commonly associated with private Bible reading in the family.
- Weitzman, M. P. (7 July 2005). The Syriac Version of the Old Testament. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-01746-6.
Clement of Alexandria noted that "some fix hours for prayer, such as the third, sixth and ninth" (Stromata 7:7). Tertullian commends these hours, because of their importance (see below) in the New Testament and because their number recalls the Trinity (De Oratione 25). These hours indeed appear as designated for prayer from the earliest days of the church. Peter prayed at the sixth hour, i.e. at noon (Acts 10:9). The ninth hour is called the "hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). This was the hour when Cornelius prayed even as a "God-fearer" attached to the Jewish community, i.e. before his conversion to Christianity. it was also the hour of Jesus' final prayer (Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34, Luke 22:44-46).
- Lössl, Josef (17 February 2010). The Early Church: History and Memory. A&C Black. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-567-16561-9.
Not only the content of early Christian prayer was rooted in Jewish tradition; its daily structure too initially followed a Jewish pattern, with prayer times in the early morning, at noon and in the evening. Later (in the course of the second century), this pattern combined with another one; namely prayer times in the evening, at midnight and in the morning. As a result seven 'hours of prayer' emerged, which later became the monastic 'hours' and are still treated as 'standard' prayer times in many churches today. They are roughly equivalent to midnight, 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Prayer positions included prostration, kneeling and standing. ... Crosses made of wood or stone, or painted on walls or laid out as mosaics, were also in use, at first not directly as objections of veneration but in order to 'orientate' the direction of prayer (i.e. towards the east, Latin oriens).
- Beckwith, Roger T. (2005). Calendar, Chronology And Worship: Studies in Ancient Judaism And Early Christianity. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 193. ISBN 978-90-04-14603-7.
- Richards, William Joseph (1908). The Indian Christians of St. Thomas: Otherwise Called the Syrian Christians of Malabar: a Sketch of Their History and an Account of Their Present Condition as Well as a Discussion of the Legend of St. Thomas. Bemrose. p. 98.
We are commanded to pray standing, with faces towards the East, for at the last Messiah is manifested in the East. 2. All Christians, on rising from sleep early in the morning, should wash the face and pray. 3. We are commanded to pray seven times, thus...
- Kurian, Jake. ""Seven Times a Day I Praise You" – The Shehimo Prayers". Diocese of South-West America of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- "Why We Pray Facing East". Orthodox Prayer. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- "My Life in Heaven & on Earth" (PDF). St. Thomas Malankara Orthodox Church. p. 31. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- "Coptic Church Prayers". St. Abanoub Coptic Orthodox Church. 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
- The Agpeya. St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church. pp. 5, 33, 49, 65, 80, 91, 130.
- "Prayers of the Church". Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- "What is the relationship between bells and the church? When and where did the tradition begin? Should bells ring in every church?". Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- Phyllis Tickle (2015). "About Fixed-Hour Prayer". Phylllis Tickle. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
For example, within Orthodox and Roman Christianity, the hours until very recently have been more often observed by monastics and clergy than by laity, a direct violation of their origin as an office of the people, just as they have been as often chanted as spoken, a rich custom that is none the less not a liturgical necessity.
- "Liturgy of the Hours". Cornell Catholic Community. 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
- Mayes, Benjamin T. G. (5 September 2004). "Daily Prayer Books in the History of German and American Lutheranism" (PDF). Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- "The Divine Office—Its History and Development". Daniel Lula. 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
- "Praying the Hours of the Day: Recovering Daily Prayer". General Board of Discipleship. 6 May 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
- "Sign of the Cross". Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East - Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon. Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East - Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon. Archived from the original on 14 April 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
Inside their homes, a cross is placed on the eastern wall of the first room. If one sees a cross in a house and do not find a crucifix or pictures, it is almost certain that the particular family belongs to the Church of the East.
- Johnson, Maxwell E. (2016). Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-6282-3.
Because Christ was expected to come from the east, Christians at a very early date prayed facing that direction in order to show themselves ready for his appearing, and actually looking forward to the great event which would consummate the union with him already experienced in prayer. For the same reason the sign of the cross was frequently traced on the eastern wall of places of prayer, thereby indicating the direction of prayer, but also rendering the Lord's coming a present reality in the sign which heralds it. In other words, through the cross the anticipated eschatological appearance becomes parousia: presence. The joining of prayer with the eschatological presence of Christ, unseen to the eye but revealed in the cross, obviously underlies the widely attested practice of prostrating before the sacred wood while praying to him who hung upon it.
- Smith, Bertha H. (1909). "The Bath as a Religious Rite among Mohammedans". Modern Sanitation. Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. 7 (1).
The Copts, descendants of these ancient Egyptians, although Christians, have the custom of washing their hands and faces before prayer, and some also wash their feet.
- Kosloski, Philip (16 October 2017). "Did you know Muslims pray in a similar way to some Christians?". Aleteia. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- Russell, Thomas Arthur (2010). Comparative Christianity: A Student's Guide to a Religion and Its Diverse Traditions. Universal-Publishers. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-59942-877-2.
- Bercot, David. "Head Covering Through the Centuries". Scroll Publishing. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
- Duffner, Jordan Denari (13 February 2014). "Wait, I thought that was a Muslim thing?!". Commonweal. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
- Samovar, Larry A.; Porter, Richard E.; McDaniel, Edwin R. (2008). Intercultural Communication: A Reader: A Reader. Cengage Learning. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-495-55418-9.
- Wensinck, Arent Jan (1986). "Ḳibla: Ritual and Legal Aspects". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Lewis, B. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume V: Khe–Mahi. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-90-04-07819-2.
- Heinz, Justin Paul (2008). The Origins of Muslim Prayer: Sixth and Seventh Century Religious Influences on the Salat Ritual. University of Missouri-Columbia. p. 115, 123, 125, 133, 141-142.
- Wensinck, Arent Jan (1993). "Mīḳāt: Legal aspects". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VII: Mif–Naz. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-90-04-09419-2.
- King, David A. (1996). "On the role of the muezzin and the muwaqqit in medieval Islamic society". In E. Jamil Ragep; Sally P. Ragep (eds.). Tradition, Transmission, Transformation. E.J. Brill. pp. 285–345. ISBN 90-04-10119-5.
- King, David A. (1993). "Mīḳāt: Astronomical aspects". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VII: Mif–Naz. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 27–32. ISBN 978-90-04-09419-2.