my review on "Finding Our Way Again", by Brian McLaren). Benson had more of value to say in the mere 160 pages in this book than many authors say in two- or three hundred. Not only did I like the content in the book, but I fell in love with Benson's word use and sentence structure. He has a witty sense of humor and can craft a sentence like few others I've read. It was truly a pleasure to read.
What this book is not: It is not a rah-rah book kicking you in the pants to pray. It is not a book containing the same ol' trite comments that prayer is merely "talking with God." Instead, what Benson proposes is called, "the daily office." "The daily office has been a primary way to hold ourselves in closer communion with the One who made us. It is a way to sanctify our days and our hours, our work and our love, our very life itself ... a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer..." (p.9)
Benson masterfully inspires his readers to engage God in daily, pre-planned prayer. I'm guilty of thinking (can I get an amen?) , "Ahhh, I'll just pray later as I go about my day." But we all know unplanned prayer never catches up with the runaway train that is our busy day. "When things are important to us, we make choices, we make lists, we make schedules. If it matters, we make a plan." (p. 83) Just a couple chapters into this book and I was already inspired to set my watch to sound an alarm every 4 hours during my work day -- just to remind me to spend time in prayer. As he said, "At some point, all of this high-minded discussion about our life of prayer has to work its way into the dailyness of our lives." (81)
Benson recommends using prayer books in the practice of the daily office. (He provides a sample in appendix A) Yeah, yeah, I had the same skepticism all my Pentecostal friends are experiencing about rote, written prayers, but Benson did a phenomenal job encouraging the use of structured prayer. Saints long-dead have developed godly, well-crafted words that we might be benefited to pray -- and we know words are powerful things. They can invite friends or incite riots; they can make love or make war; they be solutions or problems. We memorize the words in the Psalms God gave us, so why not try recite the prayers of those who journeyed before us? We sing along from memory with the plethora of songs on the radio, but we're afraid to pray the words someone else crafted? While I think Christians in liturgical traditions will have an easier time accepting this type of prayer than will others, I think we "others" might do well to at least try it. We can agree that what all off us could stand to do more of is pray!
Benson makes four suggestions to getting started in the daily office: (1) Pick a time of regular prayer. You set the times and the frequency; (2) Pick a sacred place. It could be an ordinary chair in the living room. But when it comes to prayer time, that ordinary chair somehow transforms into a sacred space of worship; (3) Pick a friend who will pray with you even when you are not together in accordance with the first suggestion; Finally (4) Show up! (118-119)
I see the fourth step being most critical, for you will never become a person of prayer if you never do it. Just as "the only way to become a writer is to write", "you do not become a person of prayer [first] and then begin to pray...you will not become [a person of prayer] if you do not pray." (96-97)
I absolutely, positively recommend this book as a must-have for anyone interested in learning other ways to pray. I am convinced you will enjoy it as much as I did, and I unreservedly give this book 5 stars out of 5!
I received this book free of charge from Thomas Nelson (Booksneeze) in exchange for my unbiased review. I am not compensated, rewarded, or otherwise threatened to provide positive reviews.