The horologion prayer is also called the “Agpeya,” prayer from the Coptic word “Agp” meaning “hour.” The Coptic Orthodox Church adopts seven canonical hours of prayers, which are used by believers in their spiritual life of prayer and aids them in elevating their prayers. The Psalmist, in the Old Testament says, “Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous judgments” (Psalms 119:164). These prayers correspond to key events, which took place in the Passion, Crucifixion, Death and Burial, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus and will take place in His Second Coming and also, in the birth of the Church through the Feast of Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit. These hours are:
The sources of the Agpeya prayers are Psalms, Biblical passages, and some supplications and prayers of the saintly men of God. This system allows the believer to lift up his heart to the Lord within the interval of three hours, contemplating on the event of the hour and thanking God for the blessings he received. It is a method to practice the Lord Jesus’ advice to pray all times without losing heart (Luke 18:1; Matthew 26:41), and without ceasing according to St. Paul (Romans 12:11, 12; 1Thessaonians 5:17).
Arranged Prayers at Certain Times
Using arranged prayers was established by the Lord Jesus Himself when He taught us to pray the Lord’s prayer. The early church at the apostolic era used to pray using the Psalms. St. Paul says, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm” (1 Corinthians 14:26); and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
Our Lord Jesus is our great example in the life of prayer. During His incarnation, He was always praying as the evangelists recorded, “He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12); “He went to the Mount of Olives (to pray), as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him” (Luke 22:39). On the other hand, He was accustomed to pray at certain times:
· He used to pray early morning: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).
· He prayed at the Sixth hour, when He was crucified, asking forgiveness for His crucifiers saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
· He also prayed at the ninth hour, committing His spirit into His Father’s hands, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
· He prayed at night after sending the entire day in teaching and healing, “when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23).
· At midnight, He prayed three times in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-45). He also attracted our attention to the importance of being ready by the midnight prayer in His teachings as in the parable of the ten virgins, in which He said, “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him… the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:1-10); and He advised us saying, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13). He also referred to the three watches of the midnight prayer in His parable of the faithful servants, by saying, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching… And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:37, 38).
· In the parable of the laborers, the Lord Christ mentioned that a landowner went out early in the morning, then at the third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours to hire laborers for his vineyard, and he gave them all their wages (Matthew 20:1-16). Therefore He is encouraging us to labor at these daily ritual times to receive our wages.
The Lord Christ established fixed times and certain hours for prayer and worshipping so that all things be done decently and in order (1Corinthians 14:40) for God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1Corinthians 14:33), and He left us an example, that we should follow His steps (1Peter 2:21).
The Early Church Paid Attention to Psalms
The apostolic church, from its beginning, used to pray the Psalms at certain hours at the Temple as they learned from the Master and Teacher, the Lord Christ. The Book of Acts recorded that the apostles and believers were continuing daily with one accord in the temple praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:46, 47). They also continued to praise and pray Psalms in the upper room at the ritual hours. For example:
· The Holy Spirit descended upon them, in the day of Pentecost, while they were praying at the third hour (Acts 2:14, 15).
· The Apostles used to pray Psalms at the sixth hour, as we see Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour and he saw his vision (Acts 10:9).
· They also practiced that at the ninth hour, as we see Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and they healed the lame man from his mother’s womb (Acts 3:1). The devout man, Cornelius had learned to pray at the ritual times, and he saw the angel, while he was praying at the ninth hour, guiding him to invite Peter to teach him (Acts 10:3).
· The apostles also practiced the midnight prayer, even at the time of hardships and tribulations, as we see the apostles, Paul and Silas did while they were imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23-26).
Using Psalms in Our Prayer
The church prays Psalms during the entire day for many reasons:
· To imitate our Master in the life of prayer, as St. Peter advised us saying, “You should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
· The Psalms are the words of God, said by David in the Spirit, according to the Lord Jesus’ testimony (Matthew 22:43).
· The Psalms contain the factor of praise to glorify the Lord with the language of the angels, i.e. praises.
· The Psalms, which came from the heart purified by repentance, encourage us to learn how to repent and struggle spiritually to reach to Him.
· The words of Psalms are expressing our feelings in different occasions e.g. joy, sadness, grief, thanksgiving, looking for guidance, asking for forgiveness…etc.
· The Psalms lead you to have a dialogue with God, not a monologue type of prayer.
· The Psalms allows us to celebrate the events of our salvation through their prophetic verses about the Messiah our Savior.
The Psalms provide us with a very rich material for contemplation to get its benefit.