The great cloud of witnesses

Having finished Robert Benson’s book In Constant Prayer for a book review, there are some powerful thoughts from his work I wanted to share.

His admonition is to take up the duty of prayer. Specifically, take up the ancient practice of the “offices.” Pray the daily office.

The office is just a collection of words. But words are powerful things. Who know what a single one of them might do to us over time?

We can get bogged down with our “been there, done that” mentality. We want something “cutting edge.” Something that “does it” for us.

Benson calls us to the ancient path because in that practice are words that have been repeated millions of times and you never know when one of those words will ignite your soul. But without that repetition, you may not have that chance. The beauty of repetition is that it gets down into our soul and then has a chance to be used by the Spirit to bring about something beautiful and new.

Yes, the daily office has repetition. But in that repetition we have the opportunity for those words to finally do something! What are we so afraid of in this exercise? Ritual? But in being fearful of “ritual” has it not led us away from the exercise of regular prayer? Is that such a good thing?

Benson ends his book with a charge. He recounts the faithfulness of the Israel and the prayers they developed as the people of Yahweh. The Gentiles learned to take up the practices as Christians from Jewish Christians. They would follow that pattern early in the history of the church.

Then the desert fathers and mothers, the people of the Church of the Middle Ages, and the people of the Reformation all took their place in the line of the faithful followers. Together they formed a great river of prayer that has rolled across the centuries, offered by the unknown and unseen saints, a great river of prayer that sustained the Church.

For six thousand years, the faithful began their days with the cry of, ‘Lord, open our lips.’ They offered the canticles of praise and said or chanted the psalms. They gathered up their prayers for each other and the community and the whole world into the collects that have been passed down to us for generations. They offered their petitions and intercessions in the language of the devout, they said their confessions, and they sang their hymns.

And now it is our turn.

Indeed. Could we overcome our boredom and find the rich vein of gold in these practices? Could we dare to drink from this ancient well and find living water?

We have to connect. We need to walk in the path of prayer. Find our way. But above all, quit talking ABOUT prayer… and pray.

Book Review — In Constant Prayer

I received In Constant Prayer from Thomas Nelson for a book review. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson is an invitation to take up the ancient stream of the daily office. Growing up Pentecostal, it has only been in the last ten years I’ve more fully explored the liturgical stream of Christianity. This book is in that stream. It is a call to simplicity. Find a morning prayer and evening prayer liturgy that fits and pray. Don’t just talk about prayer. Pray.

Benson is open and honest about his own journey. He writes as a poet and artist, not as a theologian, and it is a refreshing read.

I find myself challenged by his words. The thoughts are simple. His examples are easy to follow and powerful. Let us enter into this great stream of the Church and find the river of joy in prayer.

The currency of our age

“‘How we spend our days is how we spend our lives,’ writes Annie Dillard. ‘What we are doing with this hour and with that one is what we are doing.’

“Time is the real currency of our age, and we have to manage our time in relation to our spiritual life as much as we do in relation to any other part of our lives.

“Our hearts are where our treasure is, or so we have been told. Our love is where our time goes too. Including the time that some of us say we do not have enough of to spare some to participate in the anciet prayer of God’s faithful.” (Robert Benson, In Constant Prayer)