Nearing the half-way point in Lent, and caught up in the busy-ness of life, we can struggle to carry out our resolved Lenten devotions. Here is a remedy: the three o’clock prayer is at once so short that it need only take a moment, and so full of promise that its graces are infinite.
In His revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord asked for a special prayer and meditation on His Passion every afternoon at three o’clock, the “hour of mercy” that recalls His death on the cross.
At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion (Diary, 1320).
As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world — mercy triumphed over justice. (1572)
My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. (1572)
From these detailed instructions, it is clear that Our Lord wants us to turn our attention to His Passion at three o’clock to whatever degree our duties allow, and He wants us to ask for His mercy.
In Genesis 18:16-32, Abraham begged God to reduce the conditions necessary for Him to be merciful to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here, Christ Himself offers a reduction of conditions because of the varied demands of our life’s duties, and He begs us to ask, even in the smallest way, for His mercy, so that He will be able to pour His mercy upon us all.
We may not all be able to make the Stations or adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament, but we can all mentally pause for a “brief instant,” think of His total abandonment at the hour of agony, and say a short prayer such as “Jesus, Mercy,” or “Jesus, for the sake of Your Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
This meditation, however brief, on Christ’s Passion brings us face-to-face with the cross, and, as Pope John Paul II writes in Rich in Mercy, “it is in the cross that the revelation of merciful love attains its culmination”. God invites us, he continues, “to have ‘mercy’ on His only Son, the crucified one”. Thus, our reflection on the Passion should lead to a type of love for Our Lord which is “not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of man, but also a kind of ‘mercy’ shown by each one of us to the Son of the Eternal Father”.
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Among the many new channels our merciful Lord has given our troubled world through St. Faustina for the outpouring of His grace, is a prayer often referred to as “the three o’clock prayer”. This prayer recalls the moment from Scripture in which the centurion pierced the Sacred Heart of the crucified Jesus and, blood and water poured out as a fountain of mercy for sinners of all times.
From the saint’s diary we have Our Lord’s own words:
My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners… It is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. (Diary, 367)
The prayer is short enough to memorise and to offer at the hour of Divine Mercy, or at any time:
You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.