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In Divine office or Liturgy of the Hours as it is practiced in Catholic Church there's nothing bad for Protestants (or at least nothing of which I know that Protestants consider bad); prayer is good for all Christians and Psalms are a good basis. However, most Protestants don't pray this way. Why?

Did any of the reformers condemn it? Or did this tradition just fade away over time?

EDIT: I'm adding , because I'm interrested mostly in the time when Liturgy of Hours vanished from practice of most Protestants (16th or 17th century? I don't know exactly). Modern Protestants' point of view has some value, but the best answer shouldn't rely on practice/ doctrine nowadays. I know that some denominations practice it (especially Lutherans); these are excluded from "protestantism" for this question's sake.

I imagine citation of some reformer, founder of some denomination, or at least a notable convert who prayed Liturgy of Hours before (i.e. former Catholic priest) or at least knew the practice and wrote anything about it. I'm not sure whether such a source is even available.

Less direct citations + few words on context and how it applies to Liturgy of Hours are also OK. For example some of early criticisms against prayer in someone other's words, including words of Bible, by someone who influenced some of the major branches of Protestantism. Such a criticism could apply if it sounds plausible to audience accustomed to Liturgy of Hours, though not necessarily understanding its significance - so "vain repetitions" as Narnian suggested are based on ignorance of the prayer's structure and therefore not acceptable to anyone knowing it, but fear of praying "only at set times" as LCIII mentioned could be easily accepted by someone who prayed it regularly for a long time, but didn't discover its value as a backbone of constant prayer.

An answer based solely on reasoning and Bible citations can be (temporarily) accepted as well if at least some of its points likely played role in the beginning of Protestantism. However, if some answer with solid historical reasoning and/or citations appears later, I will definitely accept the new one instead.

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This question has an open bounty worth +50 reputation from Pavel ending in 6 days.

Looking for an answer drawing from credible and/or official sources.

I unaccepted the previously accepted answer - fear of "vain repetitions" may be a reason for modern Protestants to avoid Liturgy of Hours, but first reformers like Luther knew that it could be hardly classified as such (unless each song with a refrain is a "vain repetition"). So I offer bounty to some answer explaining 16th or 17th century (or when was this practice abandoned) Protestants' position (ideally citing some sources).

Sadly, in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, just being "too Catholic" was reason enough for most Protestants to dislike a thing. There was (and in some places still is) a very, very strong anti-Catholic sentiment amongst many Protestants. –  Affable Geek Feb 12 '13 at 13:52
As a Baptist, I got quite an earful when I added John Paul II to our prayer list back in '05. –  Affable Geek Feb 12 '13 at 13:52

4 Answers 4

The key issue is not what is in the prayers, but that the prayers are repetitive. It seems to follow from this that prayers would not arise from a person's heart. Protestants generally believe pretty strongly that prayer should be spontaneous from a person's heart--not words that someone else wrote for them to read or recite.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us not to use "vain repetitions":

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7 KJV

The Psalmist also entreats us to pour out our hearts to God. In order to do this, rote prayers seems counterproductive.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 68:8 ESV

In fact, the Psalms are full of people pouring out their hearts to God. So, the model appears to be to pray from the heart rather than to repeat what others have written for us to pray. Of course, Protestants typically believe pretty strongly that we should read the Scriptures pretty regularly.

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It seems as a plausible reason why most Protestants finally abandoned Breviary, and and the same time it seems completely implausible to be true, rather based on misunderstanding. Since this web is more about beliefs of various denominations, it definitely owes +1. Other reason is that it might help us to uncover one of the roots of mutual misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants. I asked a question on this topic: How much are psalms and other prayers from Bible understood as actual prayer in Protestantism? –  Pavel Feb 11 '13 at 23:11
Hi Narnian. Do you happen to have any references for that application of Mt 6:7? I've checked several commentaries and looked at the Greek (esp. G945 "βαττολογέω"), and found that 1) many commentators seem to be in basic agreement re Mt 6:7; & 2) of the ones that I was able to check, none exegeted the verse to refer to the offering of prayers written by others. While it may or may not be too much of a stretch to apply the verse to monastic chanting, this post seems -- at least to me -- to further suggest that […] –  Philip Schaff Aug 30 '13 at 2:41
[…]offering a prayer that was previously composed by someone with a great gift for prayer would be displeasing to God. I find that idea troubling, as I've encountered people who are new to the faith and to prayer, and who have been very discouraged when they've heard that their efforts to communicate with God and their use of others' words to learn how to pray (see, for example, Luther’s Prayers, Ed. Herbert Brokering… or Mt 6:9-13, for that matter) could be rejected by the same God whom they’re trying to please, and the Bible instead teaches that Christians should encourage faith in others. –  Philip Schaff Aug 31 '13 at 3:41
@Narnian: What do you think? –  Philip Schaff Aug 31 '13 at 3:42
While this answer is undoubtedly correct to a great extent, there is also the fact that Protestantism is based on faith alone, and the Psalms invariable are not. All those Psalms about "Judge me o God. Vindicate my righteousness for I have kept thy law." Those aren't going to sit well with Protestant theology. –  david brainerd Apr 22 at 5:41

Protestantism is so broad that you can't avoid getting a broad answer. As the protestant church has no official head there is no official answer and there was never an official LOTH rejection meeting. Furthermore, some Protestant denominations still do practice LOTH. The best you can do in this case is summarize the most common Protestant beliefs and come up with the most probable yet not all-encompassing conclusions.

Here's a list with (I think) the most probable reasons to the least probable.

Protestants are more than likely not going to follow Liturgy of The Hours because...

  • ...there are prayers to the saints/dead, which Protestants believe isn't good, so they'll throw whole Liturgy out--baby and bath water.
  • ...it makes the prayer seem insincere, as opposed to a sincere, unscripted, heart-felt prayer conversation with God. The Protestant would cite this verse as their reasoning:

    Psalm 62:8 ESV Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

  • ...setting a required time to pray gives the impression that that is the only time one needs to pray, when prayers should be constant. The Protestant would cite these verses as their reasoning:

    1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV ...pray without ceasing.

    1 Thessalonians 1:2 ESV We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,

    2 Timothy 1:3 ESV I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

  • ...it's Catholic, and Protestants tend to buck against anything that Catholics promote.

  • ...it's not in the Bible. Protestants are all about accepting no doctrine except that which is explicitly stated in the scriptures.
  • ...it's unnecessary. While more open-minded Protestants may consider the Liturgy of the Hours helpful in its structure (ignoring prayers to the saints/dead), many would categorize it as just another reading/prayer plan similar to ones you could buy at a Christian bookstore. They give it no added spiritual significance.
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This is better than the previous accepted answer - this summarizes more reasons why modern protestants usually don't pray Liturgy of Hours. I'm almost sure that points 1 and 3 applied in the 16th century as well. However, the point of praying X times a day is so that the prayer lingered on (in a less-formal and usually less explicit manner) after each time of prayer, helping to pray constantly; first reformers likely knew this. And there are mentions about praising God by singing psalms (like Eph 5,19) and praising God seven times a day (Ps 119,164), so essense of this practice IS in Bible. –  Pavel 23 hours ago
you should make point 3 point 1 –  caseyr547 13 hours ago
your first point is wrong for Jesus gave a script –  caseyr547 7 hours ago
@caseyr547 You're right, Jesus did give us a script. This is just a list of most probable reasons a protestant would reject the Liturgy--it's not meant to be all-encompassing of every protestant. I'm protestant and the biggest reason I don't do the LOTH is because of my last point. –  LCIII 3 hours ago

The Anglican church has not entirely done away with this, and has the Book of Common Prayer which has prayers and Psalms as well as bible readings, confessions, and creeds for each day of the week, as well as for group meetings, communion, weddings, funerals and so on.

The structure of Prayer in Protestant churches is often taught based on prayers and Psalms in the bible. I don't know of any Protestant teaching that would discourage someone from praying from any bible passage.

In fact, at our church on Sunday (an Anglican church in Sydney, Australia) we prayed Psalm 51 as a prayer of confession.

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I don't consider Anglicanism to be a subset of Protestantism, at least for the purpose of this question. –  Pavel Feb 28 '13 at 15:31

Each Protestant body does different things. Remember, "Protestant" is not a denomination. Various bodies actually do practice it, including Lutherans. As a Lutheran, we have it in our Divine Service book. There is also the Book of Common Prayer available. We don't see it as "vain repetition", but rather a solid structure - just as many recite the Lord's Prayer from time to time. It all depends on the denomination's interpretation of scripture.

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