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Hours of Light and Dark

tree at sunriseI don’t know how old I will be when I have finally learned to live in synch with times of day and night. Thanks to electricity, many of us humans no longer sleep at night and move around in the daytime. I wonder how many health problems are related to that. And I understand that some jobs must be done at night, and we need nighttime workforces. But on an individual basis, perhaps each of us should look at how we participate with light and the various hours of the day and night. And how might our prayer work within those frameworks?

For instance, could the coming of morning light become my signal to pray a short beginning-the-day prayer? Could sundown trigger an end-of-day prayer? For centuries, Christians all over the world have prayed at certain times of day and even through the night—the prayers of the Divine Office. (Devout members of other faiths, such as Islam, also pray at regular intervals.) But we don’t need to follow the Office to pray according to the time of day or night. In fact, many of us have tried to pray the Divine Office only to give up because it’s not an easy habit to keep. It can take years to build the practice of several prayers at specific times of day or night. It’s better to start more simply.

And when you wake up in the middle of the night, rather than obsess over all the stuff that you’re worried about, could that night awakening become a signal to pray? I have to stress that the simpler the prayer, the better. When I make my groggy way to the bathroom at 3:30 a.m., I’m not up for complicated prayer. But surely there’s a one- or two-sentence prayer that could bolster my soul in the middle of the night.

Christians don’t believe it’s appropriate to pray to the sun or the moon or stars or any created thing—we pray to the One who did the creating. Yet the sun, moon, and stars can inspire our prayer, can remind us to pray, can lend their light, beauty, and majesty to our conversations with God.

What is your experience with prayer that is connected to time of day or night?

This post concludes our series: Praying Through the Summer.

Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.


  1. We are blessed that there are so many.great reflections on prayer…. To pray is to love….prayer is raising the heart and mind to God…. How to pray speak to Him …I don’t know how to pray…. You are already praying!.
    The church has agreat tratition of night prayer think of the enclosed orders the contemplatives. Long email we are blessed to be able to pray.Resting in God is often a much needed prayer. Help! Praying because we know the community of saints hears us. I could go on! With Love ❤ and prayers Norah

  2. A very timely Reflection (for me) >Thank you Vinita.3am seems to be one of the main times I wake. If I haven’t said the Rosary before sleep, I often say it then. I do a lot of the internet prayers during the day. Yesterday I do not turn it on until I was going to bed; as I was trying not to spend so much time on computer; leaving other things undone. I just had to turn it on and said the 3 minute retreat and a sacred Space and Daily reflection, plus readings for the day ! So once again it was LATE to bed. I usually remember to offer all my day to God first thing in the morning to try and cover my day , as a prayer to Him. I recently became quite unwell , so I need His strength and help more than ever. A.M.D.G.

  3. Interesting reflection – thank you. In your references to waking up in the middle of the night obsessing about all the stuff which we often (and regularly) worry aboutt – touched a responsive chord with me. An important part of my approach to prayer and to important change in my life is the use ‘Kaisan’ (‘smallest of steps).
    When I awaken in the middle of the night or at sunrise filled with worry or even the thoughts of the day, the mere act of rising and lighting a candle reminds me that the Creator’s presence is there to be found in the darkness – waiting to be sensed and felt anew. The challenge in these fear-filled moments is to create even the smallest ‘pre-cognaitve’ space’ so that the Creator’s grace can inspire anew. Thanks again.

  4. One finds his or her own pattern of prayer, which become the hinges of the day. This is an old, old monastic practice. I try to do Lauds (Morning Prayer) shortly after arising, the Examen during the day, Vesper (Evening Prayer) during the late afternoon or evening. During the day I speak to Jesus, Mother Mary or the saints.

  5. My regular prayer time is in the evening when I read Scripture. I often pray about a particular verse. I am also given to praying my “help, help” prayer at various times.

  6. Waking is my cue to pray for my day and my friends and family. Three O’clock is THE DIVINE MERCY preceded or followed by the rosary and sleep time is prayer for my day and an examen. Night is the call for a rosary or a chat with my Jesus. He tells me what to pray. Time is an indicator, a reminder of and for prayer.

  7. I have found for me those middle of the night awakenings are often a sign of separating from God through fear, worry, sadness or something that I have not turned over to Him. At night I find my “walls” are down and I can be more honest with myself about the source of separation. I ask God for the grace to let of all that separates us. That prayer gives me peace and I truly feel God’s hug. I can then sleep in his arms.

  8. I raise predawn and have done so for years. Now that my children are adults I treasure this time for saying my rosary. As much as I attempt the examen at bedtime I fall quickly asleep. So mornings are time for prayer, reflection, and even considering my yesterday in the form of St Ignatius. There are new rules about when and how we should sleep. I would suggest we need to find our unique rhythm and it needs to be done away from electronic devises and keeping artificial light sources to a minimum. Experiencing the day unfolding with little agenda is an awe filled exoerience

  9. It has become my habit, when awakening after midnight for any reason, I start praying the Rosary, which I dedicate to two young children experiencing health challenges. Most often, I fall asleep before getting too far but each time I awaken, I’m somehow able to pick up where I left off. By morning I’m usually just finishing off.
    There is of course, another suggestion, which is, if we fall asleep praying the Rosary, the angels will finish it for us.
    This practice has become a comforting nightly routine.

  10. Sunrise draws me into the ways in which God is present to us. Sometimes the sun is hidden with stormy clouds and I know that God is with me even in hard times. Sometime the sun has a haze about it so much so that I can almost look at it without hurting my eyes. These are the times when God gives me glimpses of who He is. Then there are the times when nothing blocks the sun and it is sooooo bright that I have to bow down and look away in awe. These are the times when God tells me that He is God and I am not!
    Sunset reminds me that God gives us “color” to enhance His creation. Praise be to God!

  11. I am a nurse who has worked night shift for many years. Even now that I am retired, I still work sessions at night. This has led to certain habits that have formed to cope with the chaos! Afternoons have become my quiet time. This is when I pray and relax. Dawn for me, is the signal to either sleep or get my daily tasks done! I confess, I don’t always remember to say even a short prayer. Years ago, I received wise advice…pray as you can; not as you can’t. I talk to God when he nudges me to do so, not at specific times. I admire those who have a disciplined prayer life but so far, routine has eluded me!

    • I like your comment about being “nudged” by God to pray. I have become much more aware of God’s frequent invitations to me throughout the day to reflect briefly on His gifts to us. Prayer can be an attitude.


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