Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Review: In Constant Prayer

I recently joined Book Sneeze, a project of Thomas Nelson, which offers readers a free copy of a book in return for posting a review. My first free book, authored by Robert Benson, is reviewed below:

In Constant Prayer addresses a topic only recently brought to the fore in many modern churches. The praying of the hours, or the Divine Office, has been used as a pattern of prayer, a unifying language of petition, for millennia. Throughout the book, Benson provides both an introduction to the practice as well as insight into its application in our 21st century lives. He boldly takes on many of the concerns and excuses commonly offered—busyness, inaccessibility, etc.—with humor and personal stories.

Though In Constant Prayer has many strong points, the fact that its key weaknesses lie within the first third of the book may prevent many readers from “hanging in there” long enough to appreciate its value. In his effort to present himself in a humble manner, proclaiming himself a non-expert in the subject, Benson goes a bit too far. Though I appreciate an author who refuses arrogance, I do expect the writer to express some level of credibility if I am going to believe his work is worth reading. Benson does not navigate this balance well. As well, some of his statements regarding the relationship between the ancient and modern church seem ill informed, especially as I come from a theology/church history background. Finally, the writing itself is often disjointed, as if Benson inserted some of his favorite quotes or brief thoughts where they simply didn’t fit in a cohesive way.

Overall, however, Benson offers excellent insight into common excuses, and does so in a way that is simultaneously gentle and bold. His humor is ever-present, and his words are consistently thought provoking and challenging. If you pick up this book, hang in there. The beginning may be rough, but the read is definitely worth it in the end.