In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson – a review

I received this book from Book Sneeze for the purpose of writing a review.  The book intrigued me because of the title and proposed subject matter.  Prayer is one of the most abused and neglected practices of Christianity.  Therefore, because it is such an important part of a true believer’s life, I requested the book.

As I began reading, I quickly noticed that this book, which is part of The Ancient Practices Series, is calling for a return to the practice of praying the “offices.”  This refers to praying set prayers at scheduled times of the day – sunrise, before work, noon, mid afternoon, sundown, before bed, and midnight.  This has been a practice in Catholicism for thousands of years.  It has been a large part of the historical monastic movement.  My issue with the monastic movement is that the individuals removed themselves from society for the purpose of practicing their own piety, rather than living in the world, but not being of the world.  For all intensive purposes, they removed themselves from active participation in the Great Commission – making disciples.

As the author continues to make his case for praying the offices, he makes huge overstatements, such as: (p. 22).

“For the most part, the first Christians were Jews.  The coming of the Messiah was not the end of the story of the God they had known; it was a new chapter in that same story…the early Christians continued to do what Yahweh’s people had always done – they rose seven times a day to praise the name of the Lord.  No one said that now they had Jesus, there was no need to worship God.”  This is a huge overstatement, to equate worship with the offices.

“…if we begin to participate in this ancient tradition that has sustained the Church through the ages” (p. 10).  It is very bold to make such a sweeping statement that, praying the offices has spiritually sustained the Church.  It would be more biblical to say prayer to a sovereign, all-sufficient God who has chosen to respond to true believers praying by faith is what has sustained the Church through the ages.

“It was meant to be prayed by all the faithful, or at least it has been for six thousand years” (p. 26)  Isn’t this conjecture?  What evidence to we have that Abraham was praying the offices?

“Hold on tight – we’re headed into the Reformation, during which all manner of things that had to do with the ancient Church were set aside for various reasons.  Some of the reasons were theological, some were political, and the rest were somewhere in between…I recommend that we leave those discussions to the professionals who seem to enjoy arguing over such things” (p. 24).  The implication here is that the Reformers abandoned things that should not have been abandoned for theological and political reasons is troubling.  Abandoning the offices because of theological reasons based on Scripture is sufficient grounds for doing so.  The Reformers witnessed empty ritualism filled with superstition and rightly abandoned the practice for Christian living grounded in Scripture alone, not the tradition of men.  Furthermore, it is not a noble thing to abandon discernment and contending for the faith once for all handed down to the saints, because to do such a thing is to “enjoy arguing.”  

In the end, the book encourages prayer, which is a good thing.  Yet, I cannot recommend it because it is based more on tradition and experience/emotion than on Scripture.

 

 

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