Monday, March 7, 2011

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson (review)

 I think about my prayer life often. Am I praying enough? Am I praying the right way? Is God listening?

So much prayer (of my own and in general) seems to be out of want. "Lord bless Person A," "Lord, grant me patience," "Lord, please help me with XYZ," etc. If prayer is also a form a worship, shouldn't there be praise in there, too? Not saying that there isn't, but how much is enough?

I've read a few other books on prayer; nothing spectacular. In one book, they suggested to pray for specific things on specific days: presidents and world leaders on Monday, schools and churches on Tuesday, or something to that extent. I like the idea of this but I often forget today's date. I also like to write my prayers in a journal, but too often I just don't feel like writing them down. So I pray to God out loud or in my head. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, sometimes whenever I can fit them in. I often talk out loud to the Lord...sometimes to myself. But 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 so because the words meant something. They still can if you focus on those words and find the meaning of them rather than just saying them in sync with everyone else who is just saying them.

OK a little off topic but to say that I am not against human traditions, like the offices of prayer. I happen to think it's something I would enjoy saying as a way to worship our Lord. However, for me, I think I would sort of make my own office. I wouldn't just get a book of prayer and say what they say because that's what's written. I would be sure I agree with what's written and tweak it until it was my own worship to God. I love the idea that Benson shares about how when one office is done in this time zone, someone else picks it up in the next so that all day, all over the world, there is PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING. That is powerful! That is worship! That is majestic! That is what I want.

I still have some more research to do but I am so thankful that I came upon "In Constant Prayer" to begin my journey of daily prayer (although, let me say that I probably will not be having corporate prayer seven times a day..although I sometimes outreach that with my personal prayers/talks with God).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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