The Church has a full year’s cycle of daily prayer – the Liturgy of the Hours.
The custom of reciting prayers at certain hours goes back to a Jewish practice that was continued and developed by Christians in the Church’s early centuries. By the seventh century, this daily prayer became know as the Divine Office.
Traditionally, there are seven hours of prayer in the day and a night prayer. These prayer times are about three hours apart: Lauds (3am), Prime (6am), Terce (9am), Sext (noon), None (3pm), Vespers (evening), Compline (before going to bed), and Matins (Midnight).
After Vatican II, the Divine Office was updated and simplified, and became know as the Liturgy of the Hours. While usually considered the obligatory prayer of clergy and those in monastic orders, the revised Liturgy of the Hours is meant to be prayed by all people. Celebrating morning prayer and evening prayer has become a common parish practice.
Three prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours are taken from the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Morning prayer includes the “Benedictus” (the prayer recited by John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah); evening prayer includes the “Magnificat” (which Mary recited when she visited her cousin Elizabeth); and night prayer includes the “Nunc Dimittis” (Simeon’s prayer at the presentation of Jesus at the Temple).