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In this installment of The Ancient Practices series, Robert Benson presents a structure forour lives where we can live in continued awareness of God’s presence and reality.A pattern for worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout theday, the daily office is meant to be prayed by all the faithful so the Church may be continuousand God’s work in this ...
In this installment of The Ancient Practices series, Robert Benson presents a structure forour lives where we can live in continued awareness of God’s presence and reality.A pattern for worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout theday, the daily office is meant to be prayed by all the faithful so the Church may be continuousand God’s work in this world may be sustained. Yet it is highly personal too—an anchorbetween the daily and the divine, the mundane and the marvelous.
Says author Robert Benson, “At some point, high-minded discussion about our life ofprayer has to work its way into the dailyness of our lives. At some point, we have to movefrom talking about prayer to saying our prayers so that the marvelous that is possible has achance to appear.”
In Constant Prayeris your gateway to deeper communion with God. Expect somethingnew to unfold before you and within you while heeding this ancient call.
The Ancient Practices
There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God.To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used forcenturies . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of theSabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritualsojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.
Tell them what you have seen and heard. -Jesus of Nazareth
We believe that the divine presence is everywhere.... But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office. -The Rule of Saint Benedict
I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you are going no matter how you live, cannot you part. -Annie Dillard
I have a friend named Bettie who lives in Alabama. I pray for Bettie by name a lot of days, not because I think that she needs my prayers, but because I want to be sure God remembers that I am a friend of Bettie's.
A priest told me once that he did not think God had favorites. But, he told me, with a twinkle in his eye, he is pretty sure God has special friends. If that is true, then Bettie may well be one of them.
If I could pray like Bettie, I would not likely be writing this book about these things.
This is a book about the most ancient practice of Christian prayer, a way of prayer known as the dailyoffice. It is known by other names as well-the liturgy of the hours, fixed-hour prayer, the divine office, the canonical hours, the divine hours, daily prayer. Its roots are firmly planted in the early Church, and it has become, in recent years, the focus of a great deal of interest among people who grew up in Christian traditions in which such a way of prayer was not a part of their ongoing prayer life.
That was certainly true for me. I stumbled into the daily office when I was almost forty years old. And I have never quite recovered.
I spent two years as part of a community of sixty-five people known as the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Our Academy met for a week each quarter. We spent our days learning about the history and traditions of Christian prayer and how to transpose some of that wisdom and practice into the busy and noisy lives of us modern folks.
I finished the Academy some fifteen years ago now. The world of prayer and contemplation to which the Academy introduced me still draws me deeply, and I am still fooling with all of this, still convinced that there are deep truths buried here if I can just be smart enough or patient enough or devout enough to dig them out.
I am not much holier than I was before I began, but I am still trying nonetheless.
During those weeks in the Academy, each day would begin before breakfast with morning prayer at seven. We would say vespers together and take Holy Communion together as the sun was going down and dinner was being prepared. The day would end with night prayer at nine thirty-the offering of confessions and praise-completing our day's journey and taking us into the Great Silence, where we slept and waited for the whispering of the Voice over the dark and the void, waited for God to say, "Let there be light" again.
I wish I were poet enough to take you back there with me.
We said our prayers together in this great room, large enough to hold four hundred people if the chairs were in rows the way they set them for camp meetings. The room was paneled in old pine with great beams above us. It was the way all old campground chapels should be. The place has been there since the '30s, I think. As my father might say, there was laughter in those walls-and there were tears and prayers and praises and hymns and shouts and sorrows in there too. I used to sit in there at the altar for hours some nights.
For the Academy, the chairs were arranged in a circle of two rows, with an opening at one end for the procession of the candle or the gifts for the Table. At the other end was the Table itself. No matter where you sat, you were always looking into the faces of your fellow pilgrims. No small comfort, that.
I cannot fully express what it meant to me to say the office twenty times in a week with those brothers and sisters. If I sit still enough just now, though, I can still hear them singing the psalms and saying the Gloria, making their way through the liturgy together with care and joy. I can hear the silences, even.
Bettie was a part of the same community. At the end of each day, we would meet in small groups to process the day's information and to encourage one another in the new bits and pieces of our spiritual journey. Then we would share prayer requests and pray around the circle.
Bettie would say something like, "Jesus, help Alan's back to feel better in the morning," and in the morning Alan's back would feel better.
Or she'd say, "Jesus, help Robert not to worry," and the next day I would not be so anxious.
One day, after six days of torrential rain, she said, "Jesus, we need good weather tomorrow for traveling home," and the rain stopped before any of us had time to say amen. I swear it did, and I have witnesses.
Over the years, whenever something untoward or difficult would happen to one of us in the group, someone would call Bettie to tell her so she could pray for us. Invariably, she always knew about it before anyone called her. It was among the most powerful things I have ever seen. It was also a little scary sometimes.
There are those among us for whom the life of prayer, a life of close communion with God, a life in which there is a simple faith and a simple conversation that goes on with the One who made us, takes place in an extraordinary way. There is no doubt about that. There are one or two folks like that in your church as well. They are not always the ones who are asked to pray in public, but they are the ones you call when something terrible has happened.
If you are one of those people, I may well have very little, if anything, to teach you about prayer. Except to say, of course, that my back is sore and I am worried about some of the stuff I am saying here and I have not seen the weather forecast but I could use a few sunny days if it is not too much trouble.
If you are one of those people, you know it. And you know that most of what I have to say about prayer may have meaning only for the rest of us.
I grew up in a church crowd where the Bettie way of talking with God was expected of all of us all of the time. Even those of us who were not like Bettie at all.
So I would pray like Bettie, and nobody's back ever got better, and the rain did not stop. The problems never got solved, the fears never went away, and the healing I prayed for so fervently never came. I began to believe that prayer would not make any difference, or it would not make any difference if I was the one doing the praying. For a while I believed that I just needed to pray louder or shed more tears. Later I began to believe that it was because God would not listen.
I have finally come to believe that it was because I was trying to say Bettie's prayers, not the ones I could say.
When I first stumbled onto this way of participating in the life of prayer, this way of prayer I had unknowingly been searching for until I finally stood still long enough for it to find me, I thought I had found something that was just for contemplative folks like me. I was pretty certain it was for us poets and shy people, people who preferred silence to conversation and chose stillness over action.
So I went charging back into my local parish to try to change everyone into contemplatives like me. All I needed to do was to get them to quit their jobs and stop being extroverts and a raft of other things I thought were necessary to becoming, as Dostoevsky said, a monk hidden in the world who waters the earth with his tears.
I did not get very far. The extrovert thing is as strong as the introvert thing, I came to discover. I knew it was louder; I just did not realize the degree to which I was outnumbered. It turns out I am on the tip of a very tiny iceberg. According to the psychologists, only one person out of every hundred is as introverted as I am.
So I backed off for a bit, self-righteously thinking that such prayer was just for us chosen few (there is a confession in there, if you listen carefully), just for the enlightened, we who would rise up, all seven of us, and pray the Church into sanctity in our time.
I am coming to believe that this way of prayer may not be for the Betties of the world, those who are numbered among God's special friends, the ones with whom God seems to converse in an astonishing way. Except for those times when, like Bettie, their journey crosses paths with ours, and they are given to us as gifts to be beside us for a time.
I also have come to believe that this ancient way of prayer is not just for the contemplatives of the world, either, the particular and peculiar few who are called to live in monastic communities or to wear habits or collars or some such thing. It is not just for those of us who do not make small talk because we cannot make small talk, who would rather be alone than in a crowd, and who are even more alone when we are in a crowd. We are drawn to such prayer more easily, perhaps, but it is not just for us.
The prayer of the office is not for everyone. But that is not to say that it is only for a minority of us. The prayer of the office is not just for God's chosen few, and it is not only for God's special friends. It is prayer for the rest of us.
It always has been. For thousands of years, the daily office has been a primary way to hold ourselves in closer communion with the One who made us. It is a way to sanctify our days and our hours, our work and our love, our very life itself.
It is for any of the rest of us who need to find a way to pray. It is for those of us, and this includes most of us, who cannot pray Bettie's prayers and yet must find a way to respond to our calling to pray without ceasing.
In the simplest of terms, the daily office is a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the course of the day. Each set of prayers, known as an office, is made up of psalms, scriptures, and prayers. It is the sort of prayer that is most often associated with monastic communities and the more liturgical and sacramental parts of the Church.
What I hope to do here-with as little jargon and technical talk as possible-is to open up some of the mystery of the daily office for those who have had little or no exposure to this ancient way of Christian prayer.
I hope to shed some light on the history of the daily office and about the call to prayer it offers to us in our time. I will say some things about the obstacles that keep us from participating in such prayer and some of the ways we might overcome them. I will also share something about the benefits that can accrue to us as pilgrims, as members of the community of faith, and as the whole body of Christ if we begin to participate in this ancient tradition that has sustained the Church through the ages.
In a way, I hope to write the book I could not find when I first stumbled into the daily office all those years ago.
Some of you who read this work will be somewhat familiar with what is written here. For others, some of the information and ideas will be very new and, in some cases, very startling. Some will have already begun to pray the office and are looking to learn more about this way of prayer you have come to hold dear. Some will have only just begun to learn of its existence and are in search of hints and clues as to how to keep exploring in the right direction. Still others will find all of this completely new and more than a little bewildering.
However you come to these pages, I recommend a posture that includes one part openness, one part faith, and one part welcome. There is a possibility that some new thing is about to unfold before you even though you may not yet perceive it, as the prophet Isaiah once said about a deeper mystery. This way of prayer-the prayer that has sustained the life of the faithful for centuries-has a way of sneaking up on you and not letting go. Which is what often happens when we come in contact with God. Communion with God is several things-predictable is not one of them.
You should know that I do not consider myself a scholar. I think of myself as a poet and a storyteller. I do not stand in the pulpit; I sit in the pew. I am not a seminarian or a cleric or a professional religious person of any sort. I began my journey in the direction of a deeper prayer life as a pilgrim with some questions and a fountain pen and a lot of time on my hands, armed with little more than a desire to see what might happen to me if I learned to pray the prayer that has been prayed by the community of saints for centuries.
I would not even now consider myself to be a person of prayer. I am not even certain that I can fully describe what all of these things have come to mean to me.
What I know of prayer has come from reading books and asking questions, from talking with those who have come from church traditions other than mine, and from wandering and wondering with other pilgrims for whom this way of prayer has become a central part of their life with God. And from participating in the prayer itself.
I have stories to tell that I believe give voice to or shine some bit of light on the questions that surround this way of prayer, questions that usually seem to arise in the hearts and minds of those who are drawn to it. I know such questions lived in me when I began this journey. They were forming in my head and in my heart and in my very soul from the moment of my first exposure to this way of prayer. And maybe some of them are your questions as well.
"To be a writer," said the novelist Ellen Douglas, "is to bear witness to all that you have seen and heard." A writer is all I really make any claim to be. And so I am bound to tell these stories to you and even again to myself.
Perhaps in the reading, and in the telling, new words and notions and questions about prayer will rise up in us both. I certainly hope so.
I have written about some of these things before, in bits and pieces in other books. There is a sense in which I have been writing this book for more than fifteen years. Not long enough to know everything about this great mystery, and not long enough to become much more than I was when I started-a pilgrim who wants to learn how to live a life that is shaped by and around and for prayer, a life that becomes a prayer that is prayed without ceasing. I have to tell you that the whole business still astonishes and terrifies me; it still lifts me up and manages somehow to pull me forward, or if not forward, then maybe even higher or closer or nearer to the One who made us and to whom we pray.
I have been at it long enough to know at least this: of all the things I have ever written about or will ever write about, this is the one true thing that has come to matter to me the most.
Excerpted from IN CONSTANT PRAYER by robert benson Copyright © 2008 by Robert Benson. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 30, 2012
The book, “In Constant Prayer” was really insightful and thought provoking. The reason why I chose this book was because I was struggling in prayer and thought that this book could help lift my spirits and teach me how to prayer more and possibly not feel as awkward praying. This book did exactly as I was hoping it would do. It helped give me specific points to help strengthen my prayer life. It gave me practical examples to make prayer seem easier and not as awkward. I also like how Benson gave background on how prayer came to be which was interesting to me since I never really thought of how prayer came to be I just thought it was always there.
The downside of this book is that it was a little difficult to read because of the language. I am Christian Missionary Alliance and this book is written using Catholic terminology, which I am not all that in tune too. Even though this book used different terminology I still felt that if I uncovered those terms I could understand the book better. I looked up some of the terms and that helped me understand the book and would suggest other readers do the same if they come from different denominational backgrounds.
Posted July 20, 2011
As a Pentecostal, I have learned spontaneity in all my praying life. This book has opened a new dimension to my praying world in the 'daily office' prayer. After finishing the book, I must confess that I know little of praying the ancient prayer and the power contains therein. Therefore, it has been a difficult read but nonetheless, enriching. I admire Robert Benson in writing this book that he never did criticise any other forms of prayer but only to present his best know how of prayer to the world. He was transparent throughout his book and with this; he has already won and warmed my heart. This book is for everyone who has lost the burden of daily prayer life and desires to come back to a fixed time of communion with God. I give this book a three-star.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2011
When I first became aware of the book, I was attracted to what I thought it was going to be about. I had thought it would be an exhortation and advice on the concept of praying always, as St. Paul urges. I had hoped that it would inspire me to redouble my efforts and perhaps help me learn new ways and means to pray. Make it an even greater part of my everyday life. Take time from my schedule for my relationship with God. Instead, the book is about the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office.
I have prayed the Office for years, although mainly Morning Prayer and only on occasion. I do love the rhythm that The Office offers, and the fact that it opens up the Psalms to be prayed when I might not otherwise pay attention to them. And then there is the discipline. Benson offers a quote from a friend: "the three greatest obstacles to the spiritual life are inertia, amnesia and manana." The Office, done in community, gives greater motivation to be faithful to prayer, similar to how the Anonymous groups keep a recovering person the support and structure s/he needs to keep on his/her journey. I know I need to be similarly supported on my journey.
So, even though the book was not what I was anticipating, this does not take away from its value. It makes a strong case, from anecdotes from various people's lives, about the value of the Office, and pleads (softly) for the reader to consider joining a community to pray. It is light reading, and made me rethink my commitment to the community with whom I infrequently pray.
Posted June 12, 2011
This book makes a few very good points in it, but there was also a couple things that could have made it better.One of my favourite things that it talks about is how people have made the worhip of God to be all about themselves. People say they don't go to church because they "don't get anything out of it." etc. Howevr, when you worship someone, it should not be about yourself. This book shows that we worship God, for God. We are thanking him for what he has done, and we are there to put on the best show for him that we know how to do, regardless of what we're getting. We should be giving to God. And, quite often when we do, we will get something out of it. We will feel God's spirit working within us, but if we don't, it doesn't mean we should stop.
Another thing I liked about this book is it's point on, if you set aside a time to pray every day, and someone else does the same, and someone else does the same. Well, There can be prayer lifted to God at all times. 24/7. It's when people don't take time to pray, and it happens more and more nowadays, that there could be gaps. I don't want to think of a world with no prayer in it at all, even for a moment.
The one thing that bugged me about this book, is that, while I knew the author was a male, he suddenly describes his "school girl" figure on page 87 or so. now it was meant as a joke or whatever, but it threw me right off. Suddenly I thought the book was written by a female. There are so many first person stories in the book that I had come to picture the author and then for the next few chapters I was mostly just trying to change that image in my head and missed out on what I was reading. Then it came clear again that it was a male and it was back to the start again. Don't get me wrong, this isn't an important factor, but when I read, I always picture the person narrating a first person story and if that image changes it throws me right off. I know what you're thinking, why didn't a check the author on the cover? Well, I did. but when I suddenly thought it was a female, the name Phyllis Tickle stood out more than the Robert Benson. Phyllis Tickle wrote the books forward. So, if you go into this book, don't let the school girl quote throw you off!
Posted May 30, 2011
I chose this book specifically because of my bad attitude toward prayer. Now don't get me wrong, I pray and I know there is great value in our prayers, but I simply do not / did not understand it. I don't see the purpose in it. Why would God want us to pray? He knows and is in control of everything. What, really, is the purpose??? (Even after reading this book, I don't have the answers to that.) So I chose this book so that I could learn about prayer. I didn't get what I was expecting or hoping for. I got different and maybe better than that! I gained a huge appreciation for prayer.
I suppose in my life in the church I had heard about praying at specific times in the day. I would say that this ritual / routine was more something I attributed to the other religions - Muslims, and such - not Christian people. And yet, I see remnants of it - we have a devotional time when we wake up, we say grace at meals, we say bedtime prayers. This was my life growing up, though it's not so much at this point in my life.
I loved how friendly the author's writing is. I felt like we were just sitting and having a coffee and a conversation. I laughed. I sighed. I related to his honesty. I wish I'd taken more notes while I read this book. I guess I'll have to read it again! I know I will get things I missed the first time. I know that after reading this book, I want to add some specific times of prayer to my life. I may not follow a specific set of prayers, but I will find what works for me, my kids, my life, and ultimately, my relationship with my God.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thanks to Book Sneeze for this opportunity!
Posted April 4, 2011
In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson is the second installment in The Ancient Practices series. Robert Benson gives a historical look at the daily office and with the mastery of his poetic style he makes the practice approachable. The origins of this ancient prayer states: "Seven times a day will I rise to praise your name." This statement alone may cause many to wonder how this is possible in light of our busy days. Benson helps the reader understand that this type of prayer is not just for nuns and monks, it is meant for everyone. It is meant to answer the cry to "pray without ceasing". The truth is that the divine office was never meant to be just for professionals, or to be prayed just by a few. It was meant to be prayed by all the faithful, or at least it has been for six thousand years. It was meant to be part and parcel of our individual piety and our common life of devotion. It was meant to be offered by all of us. The daily office is a liturgy as well as an offering. Even though it is known also by the divine hours, it does not take an hour to say. In fact, it takes considerably less time. "In the simplest of terms," Robert writes, "the daily office is a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the course of the day. Each set of prayers, known as an office, is made up of psalms, scriptures, and prayers." The book offers many different types of prayer books that are available. In choosing one, this is his suggestion: Here's the golden rule for choosing which set of prayers you are going to say: pick a set of prayers you like, and begin to pray them. The particular version, the set of prayers you pray, is up to you. And how many offices-- seven or four or two--and which of the offices you will say--morning or noon or evening or night-- those choices are up to you as well. The One who has drawn you to begin will guide you as you go along. How is that for making the sacred simple? I believe reading this book will give you a hunger to experience prayer in a different way. Not only will you learn about this ancient practice that needs to have a place in our contemporary lives but you will be moved by Robert Benson's experiences and humble offerings as a seeker of the King. Look at the cover of In Constant Prayer and you will see an image of prayer. The daily office is an offering to God and how He intertwines Himself with us. Robert Benson's book offering illustrates the image beautifully. For your consideration...In Constant Prayer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 7, 2011
The question always plagued me...what does praying without ceasing mean? Obviously, I can't pray 24/7! I have a husband, children, and (to be honest here) tv to watch! Besides sleeping and daydreaming (which take up a lot of time!).
"In Constant Prayer" by Robert Benson obviously caught my eye by the title. What does it mean to pray without ceasing? Benson taught me about the offices of prayer. Apparently, back in the BC days, God's people prayed 7 times a day. The set up was like a church service (or rather a temple service?) with certain things said, prayed, and Scripture read. Like a mini church service, seven times a day. Benson said (and it makes complete sense) that Jesus himself would have grown up learning to pray these seven times a day and the apostles, too. So when they became Christians after Christ's crucifixion, they kept praying the prayers seven times every day. Then as the world grew and got busier, many stopped praying seven times a day (and some people stopped praying at all as they grew away from the Lord). I'd never even HEARD of the offices of prayer until reading this book.
The book itself takes a little bit to get into; it's not a Twilight novel. But it is well-written and humorous too. Benson obviously is very passionate about the offices (which comes in handy when you're writing a book on such things). He is an Episcopalian - which I have very little idea of what that is except that it seems to be closer to the Catholic church than my non-denominational church. He is also an older man and I've realized that many older people prefer traditional things in their church services: hymns of days passed, Communion done in a certain fashion, certain Scriptures read on certain days Lenten/Advent services, and basically things that never change. Not saying this is bad; it's just not for everyone (myself included). I find that too often it seems that people in churches where there is much human tradition (whether biblical or not) don't understand what those traditions MEAN. They have lost all of their meaning and therefore, are just words and habits. They have zero connection to the Lord, unfortunately.
I say unfortunately because I believe that in ancient traditions there is a connect to the Lord. I really do love saying The Lord's Prayer, the Nicene Creed, the Apostle's Creed (although the latter two have been years since I've said them since leaving the Lutheran church). The people who wrote the last two prayers and Jesus who taught us the first prayer, did
Posted March 3, 2011
Reading a book by Robert Benson is like sitting in a big comfortable chair across from him while he shares stories that teach. In this book, In Constant Prayer, the stories revolve around liturgical prayer becoming part of our daily lives. Who would think that there would be enough stories, interesting stories at that, about such a topic? Yet, Benson makes it relevant, appealing and challenging.
From someone who worships at a contemporary evangelical church, I found Benson's ideas to be very thought-provoking. When all that is involved with worship is Sunday morning praise songs with a hymn thrown in every now and then, worship seems a little shallow. This brings prayer and worship to the daily. While much of repeating the prayers and psalms can be mundane, it is through the mundane that we catch glimpses of the holy. The analogy Benson uses for this is the tedious work involved in gardening; as a direct result of all the tedium, he catches a moment of pure beauty in the garden when the light falls just right on the roses and it takes his breath away.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone seeking a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted March 2, 2011
In Constant Prayer is a one of the books in The Ancient Practices series, a series of books that explores the traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries. Authored by Robert Benson, In Constant Prayer talks about prayer and the importance of a regular communication with God to our lives as Christians. It is important that you have an open mind and that you're really interested in knowing how prayer could affect your life positively while reading this book in order to appreciate the message that it wants to convey. It was written in a conversational manner, with a sharing of a few personal experiences and some anecdotes here and there - and it's easy to think that it's just beating around the bush most of the times (especially if you're one who just wants to look at the keywords). Basically, this book tells us that we have to constantly commune with God through prayer many times throughout the day. At first, I disagreed with the logic of setting a fixed hour of schedule to pray because I believe that in order for prayer to be sincere, it should be spontaneous and should come from the heart - no rules, no fixed date. Then I remembered how we could send text messages or call our loved ones in phones for countless of times a day especially at the start of the relationship and I realized that if we also want to really create a close relationship with God, we should also strive to constantly seek him out many times a day until it becomes a habit and we'll now consider it as a necessity instead of a chore. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2011
Do you want to experience the spiritual part of life more deeply?
Then I highly recommend this book.
I was raised in a non-liturgical, Christian tradition, which emphasized spontaneous prayers of the heart. Although there is great value in this form of spiritual communication, Mr. Benson gives a clear introduction to the discipline of reading or reciting the "daily office" and "praying the hours."
Just as devout Muslims and Jews pray at set hours every day, so also many Christians throughout the past 2000 years have prayed at set times throughout the day. Some liturgial denominations continue to support this practice, but it is a lost art in most contemporary Christian churches.
If you would like to learn more about some prayer books available for devotional use, or the tactics necessary to find time to begin this practice, or anything else related to using scripted prayers to develop your spiritual sensitivites, then pick up a copy of this book!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for my unbiased recommendation.
Posted February 20, 2011
When I first heard about the "Ancient Practices" series, the book on prayer interested me most. I loved the concept, the topic, and the series offerings. In Constant Prayer instead left me constantly searching for anything ancient or new about prayer. What I found instead was a recommendation to return to ancient church (not necessarily Biblical) practices. The author told me I could pray the same prayer as Jesus to His Father but he never told me what prayer that was. He told me all about this idea of the office but never gave an example until the appendix. He did provide plenty of excuses and anecdotes for not praying. This is old, nay, ancient material. It was certainly no encouragement to engage in prayer whether ancient or contemporary.
The support for his position seemed lacking as only two other works appeared in the bibliography. So overall, I learned nothing new from this book about the ancient practice of constant prayer. At one point I was excited by the prospect of finding out how, as an individual, I might learn to pray without ceasing. Instead, the author leads us to believe that this is accomplished corporately as individuals and churches around the world pray the "office" within their time zones of prayer.
I would have enjoyed learning about the ancient origins of the hours of prayer in Bible times. Instead, the author simply offered these as mere facts and then moved on with his personal stories, few of which directly had anything to do with prayer.
Posted February 17, 2011
In Constant Prayer, by Robert Benson is a crash course on praying the daily office. The daily office is explained in this book through examples of people who make it a way of life as well as instruction on what it is all about and how to get started in the practice. Although the author comes from a traditional standpoint, he does a good job of making the ideas accessible to people in all walks of Christianity. The daily office is a liturgical practice of praying "through the hours" in a structured way that has been passed down through the ages based on David's words about praying seven times throughout the day. I would recommend this book to anyone who is seeking a way of prayer that helps them to structure their prayer lives more traditionally and liturgically. While I may not use this book's instructions for the daily office at this time of my life, I am drawn to the traditional that it portrays and will most likely use it in the near future. The most useful part of the book is at the end of the book when the author provides an example of one daily office for the morning. It allows people unfamiliar with the liturgical aspects of the office to understand what the author means by example. Even the most non-traditional Christians who may have never heard of the daily office will be drawn to some form of the daily office after reading this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
Posted February 17, 2011
"Get this book," my best friend told me. "I've been meaning to buy it for you--I thought of you every chapter when I read it." This is the friend who knows me better than anyone except my husband--there was nothing to do but get the book.
Benson's "In Constant Prayer" is a book about liturgical prayer, specifically about using the daily office for what most evangelicals would call personal quiet time. It's a primer on what the daily office is for people who think that is office is where you keep your desk. It's a challenge and encouragement to the Protestants to take up this ancient practice. It's a poetic meditation on beauty and challenges of choosing this form of structuring your prayer life.
It's been a long time since I read a book that simultaneously challenged, convicted and encouraged me like this one has. Here is a way to practice prayer, he suggests, for those of us who are no good at praying and aren't ever going to be on our own. It's utterly deflating and freeing. So you're not a praying artiste. You don't need to be. You don't need to reinvent "quiet time." The church throughout the ages has an easy step-by-step guide for you.
Most American Christians are not very good people of prayer. If you feel like you ought to pray more, but just can't quite seem to get it to work, try praying by the recipe with Benson and the daily office.
Posted February 16, 2011
Over the past few years, the Lord has been taking me on a journey of discovering the Spiritual Disciplines. A lot of my journey has been focused on my prayer life and how to live out the mandate to "pray without ceasing" in a world that so desperately wants me NOT to "pray without ceasing".
So imagine my delight when I received this complementary book from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for agreeing to review the book on this site. A free book to help me pursue the passion God has already stirred in my heart!
The book focuses on The Daily Office prayers. Not having grown up in a liturgical church, I was unfamiliar with this term but not unfamiliar with the practice it teaches. The Daily Office is simply set times throughout the day to pray and read scripture. They are written prayers that have been around for centuries that are used for both corporate prayer and individual prayer. The idea is that if you plan out certain times throughout the day where you will sit and pray, you will become a person of prayer.
I truly did enjoy reading this book. The author is not a theologian so the book is not written in an academic, dry sort of way. He's funny and yet gets straight to the point. Its an easy read and clearly explains the history of the practice as well as the need for the practice. I especially enjoyed the study guide and the examples of prayers that were included at the end of the book.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is on the journey of a deeper prayer life. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have enjoyed this book because God was not pushing me in this direction, but now, I honestly think I will reread it so that I can truly grasp the importance of this ancient tradition.
Posted February 15, 2011
This book is not what I expected. It's not just another book on prayer as every author seems compelled to put out these days. I am glad I read it, and while it's not a concept I'm going to adopt, I think there are some who could find it helpful and even fruitful.
The prayer Robert Benson discusses is "praying the hours"; praying at appointed times of the day. Morning Prayers, Nooontime Prayers, Evening Prayers, Bedtime Prayers - all of which we could use, but also that which most people find themselves to busy to stop at designated times of the day to just pray. Does that mean that we never pray? No, I don't believe that and neither does the author. But he has found that these prayers would only take 12 minutes to say...maybe we could find four increments of that short time to talk to the God who loves us each day, and maybe more when we have more time.
Benson's book provides many more details about this process of prayer, called the Daily Office. It's worth a read.
Posted February 14, 2011
The church that I go to is very *NOT* liturgical, and it's really the only church I've attended, so the whole idea of the daily office is brand new to me. This book did a good job explaining what it is and more importantly, why it should be an important part of our lives. What this book does not cover is the how and specifically what to pray during the daily office. The author makes sure to give resources that cover that material.
Each chapter has several stories from the author's experience, seemingly unrelated to each other. In the latter part of each chapter, he draws them all together to prove the point of the chapter. I found this style of writing refreshing and easier to read than a lot of non-fiction books which hammer the point throughout the chapter with little stories tucked here and there. It made the points seem more personal and easier to internalize.
The author has a very good sense of humor, although it did take me a little bit to catch it. At first, I couldn't tell when he was being serious and when he was being facetious. Once I caught on, however, I was laughing aloud and ended up reading large chunks out loud to explain to my husband what I was laughing about.
Reading this book in conjunction with doing B90 Days has really opened my eyes to the calling of God on me to rise earlier for the purpose of starting my day with Him. As I prayerfully attempt to do this more, I find my time multiplied and my heart more open to what he has for me each day.
After reading this book, I may or may not start praying the daily office, but at least I know what it is and why I might choose to do that in the future. I also have a good idea of where I would go next to find more information thanks to the appendices.
Posted February 2, 2011
In Constant Prayer
by Robert Benson
I picked this book to review because I thought that it would be an encouragement. Something like the book Sun Stand Still. Because I always appreciate books that spur me on to a closer relationship with God.
But that was not what I got. The author seems to be having a pendulum swing - he sees the corruption brought on by the "me" type of thought in our culture, but instead of opting for a balance, he goes way over to the other extreme and essentially states that we should not expect to get anything at all out of worship.
He is correct in the statement that God is the one who we are really trying to please. That we follow God's wishes over our own. That we should be more concerned about what Jesus thinks than what we think.
But that does not at all mean that we should not seek to draw closer to God through these acts of worship. Prayer is not just a ritual that we do because we have to - we (should) do it because want to.
The main focus in worship does need to focus on pleasing God. But we should also seek to be able to learn, and draw closer to God in worship. We should take delight in it, and should seek to be encouraged, inspired, and refreshed by it.
My overall rating: 4 out of 10 stars. Not really recommended.
Posted January 31, 2011
"It should not come as a great surprise to you by now, but I love words..I love them for their power to move you to tears and to laughter, to action and to rest. I love their power to transform an argument into an agreement, a hope into a prayer, a moment into something holy" -Robert Benson That is exactly what Robert Benson's words did to me as I read his book, In Constant Payer. This man, whom I have never met, has moved me to such curiosity about the Ancient Practice known as the Daily Office, also known as daily prayer. Through the labyrinth of words you will discover yourself getting lost within; Benson will take you through the hidden opening of his personal prayer life. He explains with such poetry and eloquence the art of the offices, the significance of such offices, and his fear, that like most fine arts, it can become lost. I have never heard of the Daily Office until I read In Constant Prayer, and although I may never find myself practicing this style of liturgy, Benson has taken me on a journey of laughter, insight, and a realness that I have not seen in other writers. He quotes many biblical truths, however there were no references when he was mentioning scripture. Nonetheless, Benson has illuminated the truth that we are all called to a life of prayer, and the passion that he releases for the art of prayer has moved my soul to search for a deeper, more disciplined life of constant prayer. I have received a complimentary copy of In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson from BookSneeze® as part of the bloggers program. The view and opinions are my own.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2011
IN CONSTANT PRAYER
By Robert Benson
For almost ten years now, I have had the habit of rising around 4:30 a.m. to begin my day with prayer. So, when I saw this book, I was a little excited about reading it. However, when I read the Table of Contents and saw words like "Divine Office" and "Daily Office," I realized that the author must assuredly be a Catholic. Well, I am most assuredly not a Catholic. So, here's a lifetime non-Catholic writing a book review on a Catholic's book on prayer.
To say the least, I began reading this book with the idea that it would be somewhat boring and that I would be glad to finish it. However, the more I read, the more interested I became in Mr. Benson's experiences in prayer. One theme he seemed to hammer home all through the book was not only the importance of prayer, but the importance of a specific time set aside for prayer. This I whole-heartedly agree with. Just like your stomach gets a little growly when you work past a meal time, your spirit gets a little upset also when you miss your regular time of fellowship with the Lord.
One of things I was disappointed with at first was that there was not a lot of teaching on prayer. However, Mr. Benson gave account after account after account of God's nearness during times of prayer. He related not only his experiences but the experiences of many of his friends. The examples he related ranged anywhere from the loss of a loved one to the daily ravages of life. I was very encouraged by his writings and I would recommend this book to anyone who has the habit of daily prayer.
I was furnished a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Posted January 26, 2011
It was a privilege to read the book, In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson. It was the title that drew my attention to the book, as I am exploring what it means to be "in constant communion" with the Lord in a practical sense for today.
The book was wonderfully challenging, as the author opened up my heart and mind to the ancient practice of the "daily office". He explains that the daily office is "a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the course of the day." The author refers to the daily office as a model of prayer patterned after Psalm 119 and "the people of Yahweh".
This type of "daily fixed-hour liturgical prayer" is then discussed at length throughout the book. It was refreshing to hear the author speak with such transparency of his walk as a "pilgrim" who, "wants to learn how to live a life that is shaped by and around and for prayer, a life that becomes a prayer that is prayed without ceasing". The book is beautifully written with a sincerity and depth that will capture the reader's heart. The author's willingness to expose some of his own life struggles served to captivate me all the more!
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for this review copy of In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson provided to me through BookSneeze.