In Constant Prayer is the second book in Thomas Nelson’s The Ancient Practices Series. (I previously reviewed the first book in this series – Brian McLaren’s Finding Our Way Again – here.) Robert Benson makes a powerful case for why every Christian should pray the daily office. Benson is a gifted and engaging writer. He does two things exceptionally well: he is able to explain a practice that may be unfamiliar to many mainline and evangelical Christians in a way that is both lucid and persuasive, and he writes in a way that really brings you into the conversation. He comes across as very humble and willing to be vulnerable. This is not a book written from an expert in prayer to people that the author is clearly on a pedestal above his audience. Instead, Benson writes to people who really want to make time for God, but often struggle to do so. And he writes not as someone who has found all the answers, but as someone who is willing to admit that he has often struggled himself to make time to pray the daily office.
The daily office is “in the simplest terms… a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the course of the day. Each set of prayers, known as an office, is made up of psalms, scriptures, and prayers” (9-10). Benson’s professed goal is “to open up some of the mystery of the daily office for those who have had little or no exposure to this ancient way of Christian prayer” (10). For Benson this is no trivial matter as he has become convinced that “if the Church is to live, and actually be alive, one of the reasons, maybe the most important and maybe even the only reason, will be because we have taken up our place in the line of the generations of the faithful who came before us. It will be because we pray the prayer that Christ himself prayed when he walked among us and now longs to pray though us” (72-73).
Perhaps the highest praise that I can offer for this book is that in a time when there are more books on prayer than any sane person could read, this is one of the books I would recommend to someone who seeks encouragement in their prayer life and who seeks some basic guidance for not thinking about praying, but for actually praying.
The book also contains a sample office of morning prayer. Since reading this book, I have begun praying this morning prayer and am considering purchasing one of the prayer books that he mentions in the book.
I would especially recommend this book to spiritual leaders who are finding that their own devotional life is drying up. Benson is very candid about the reality that we sometimes fail to make time to spend in prayer with God. He writes in a way that is not accusatory and he even includes himself in the group of people who sometimes fail. But he lifts up the daily office as a tested and well-worn practice that helps “the rest of us” grow in our relationship with God. If you are struggling with consistent time with God in prayer, or you are “stuck” in your prayer life, this book would be well worth the read.