IN THIS BOOK, Robert Benson introduces the discipline of the Daily Office, also known as the liturgy of the hours, among other names. It is part of the Ancient Practices series. In a humble and engaging way, Benson presents a truly ancient practice – a way of praying at fixed times and entering into the great river of prayer that runs through the church over the ages.
I love this book. Ironically it has taken me some time to get round to reviewing it, so I almost want to read it again before doing so. One thing I love about this book is the voice of the author. Benson is a wonderful writer and a deeply honest one – an honesty and humility runs throughout the book as he suggests, not prescribes, this ancient form of prayer. He confesses readily to his own sense of shyness, something I could relate to, having a shyness of my own. And he talks about how he finds this form of prayer helpful while acknowledging that we are all different.
I wish I had read this book with a pencil. I will next time.
Just some of things I found helpful were:
- The origins of fixed time prayer- how they go back into ancient Israel. They are not invented by monasteries!
- The participation of these prayers – how even when we are alone, we know that others all over the world are also praying in this way.
- The purpose of the daily office – it is for God. So often our prayers are all about ourselves. The daily office is for God. This really hit home.
- The practicality of the prayers – Benson is so down to earth, explaining what you will need, how long it takes, how to incorporate them into our lives.
- The passage of these prayers over time – how the church keeps these prayers going over the ages, and the suggestion that its failure to do so has a truly destructive effect on the church.
- The reality of our own weaknesses – Benson emphasises not feeling guilty for our ‘failures’ to pray but to start again the next day.
These are just some of the things in this book. And I believe it does offer a new way of forming ourselves, freeing ourselves, changing ourselves, even as we do it for God alone and not for ourselves.
“WE HAVE WONDERED what might be in this prayer for us if we said this prayer, even as we acknowledged that our worship is not actually for us; it is for the One who made us. Even so, we wondered, what might happen in our hearts and in our minds and in our work and in our relationships and in the world itself, if we said the prayer that has been given to us?”
– Robert Benson, In Constant Prayer, p148
I have realised while thinking about this review, that I am able to say a very overused and under-meant phrase and actually mean it. This book has changed my life. I know that because since I finished reading it I have instilled the discipline of morning and evening prayers in my own life. I have a chair where I sit and I do my ‘office’. Although it felt a little odd at first, I found the structure and discipline incredibly helpful. Especially when it comes to praying for others – I now have a journal where I allocate people a day – and will pray specifically for them at the designated point in the office. Before, I simply felt overwhelmed by all the need and didn’t know where to start.
Unexpected giveaway: My first book got lost in the post. So Thomas Nelson very generously sent another. Then – you guessed it – the lost copy finally turned up. So, yes, I have a spare copy. Please leave a comment if you’d like it, explaining why, and I’ll choose one. One thing I would say this is a particularly good book at introducing the Daily Office. So it may be valuable for those who are relatively unfamiliar with it, but have a genuine interest. [GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED]
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.
Other reviews from the Ancient Practices series: