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.