In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson (Ancient Practice Series) – a book about fixed hour prayer

In Constant Prayer by Robert BensonThis is the fourth book in the Ancient Practice Series that I have read.  Two previous books, The Sacred Meal (my review) and The Liturgical Year (my review) were provided free through the Thomas Nelson Blogger Review Program (now called BookSneeze for some reason).  The third one, Fasting by Scot McKnight (my review) I bought on my own and was quite helpful as I was looking into fasting with my church.  I bought this one soon after reading the first two but had not made time to read it until a trip to Chicago last week.

What I like about this series is that the books are fairly short (150 to 200 pages), have a wide variety of writing styles and a good perspective on why we as modern Christians should pay attention to these ancient disciplines.  In Constant Prayer is about fixed hour prayers.  This is a practice that I did not really know much about but this is the third book in a year that has had an extended discussion about it.  I understand the authors love of this practice.  I also understand how difficult it would be to put into practice even a twice a day fixed hour prayer practice (many in Catholic orders and some Orthodox Jews pray 7 times a day).

What I do not like about the Ancient Practice series is that at least in the four books that I have read so far there is virtually no practical advice on how to actually do the practice.  In this book, there is a good chapter on the fact that it really does not take that much time, especially once you are familiar with the liturgy.  But the book does not really go as far as to talk about what is really going on in fixed prayer much more than a brief description.

An issue with this book in particular is the fact that fixed hour prayer, in my understanding, should be fairly communal.  Of course you can pray alone.  But much of church history fixed hour prayers were calling people to pray together.  There was a clear sense of community in those prayer.  But the author acknowledges that as a protestant, there is not a lot of opportunity to practice fixed hour prayers in community, unless you want to participate with Orthodox or Roman Catholic groups.  So while I am interested, I am already frustrated with the lack of prayer as a community event in the Evangelical world.  So I am afraid that if I spend much time doing fixed hour prayer I will become even more frustrated.

In the past 8 days I have been using Phyllis Tickle’s book Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (the only one available on kindle right now).  I will review my initial thoughts on that book in a week or so, but I will say that after a week of fairly consistently using fixed hour prayers I do find it a valuable practice.

One last comment, the Kindle version of this book, as of right now is more then $2 above the price of the hardback.  So I bought the hardback.  If anyone would like to have it, let me know in the comments and I will send it to you.

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Disclosure: although I have received other books in this series free for review I did buy this book with my own money.  All links to Amazon above are affiliate links.

5 Comments

Thank you for reading IN CONSTANT PRAYER in the first place and for sharing it with your friends. I am humbled and grateful.
And the bells just rang for Vespers here in my studio. I shall say them with you this day, in the way that we few Protestants have been given to pray with each other until more of the Kingdom is revealed.

NAMASTE —

Robert Benson
thelongpew.com

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Adam Shields’ Reviews of Books on Prayer : Phil's BlogsFebruary 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

[…] In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson (Ancient Practice Series) – a book about fixed hour prayer […]

[…] have not participated in fixed hour prayers before, but after reading In Constant Prayer (my review) I thought I should try it.  I can see real value in stopping throughout the day and […]

[…] and away the best of the series.  I have appriciated several of the books, especially Fasting and In Constant Prayer.  But the series as a whole is a very mixed […]

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