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In Constant Prayer (The Ancient Practices) Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 6, 2008

114 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Benson is an acclaimed author and retreat leader who writes and speaks on the art and the practicality of living a more contemplative and prayerful life in the modern world. He has published more than a dozen books about the search for and the discovery of the sacred in the midst of our everyday lives. His works include Between the Dreaming and the Coming True, Living Prayer and Digging In: Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard. His writing ranges from books on prayer and spirituality to travel and gardening to baseball and the Rule of St. Benedict. Benson's writing has been critically acclaimed in publications from the New York Times to USA Today to Spirituality & Health to the American Benedictine Review. He is an alumnus of The Academy for Spiritual Formation, a member of The Friends of Silence & of the Poor, and was recently named a Living Spiritual Teacher by Spirituality&Practice.com. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Ancient Practices
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0849901138
  • ASIN: B0029LHX9Y
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,782,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I come from a family of writers and publishers and other folks who spent much of their lives working with and around writers and musicians and producers and artists. One of my grandfathers was a poet and a publisher and my father was a writer and a speaker. My grandmother loved poetry and novels and used to invite me to her house to play Scrabble. Words and sentences and stories have mattered most to me for most all my life
I grew up in a small bedroom community just outside Nashville, Tennessee. I left once to study English literature in California and again for a couple of years and a couple of cold winters to write advertising in Chicago, but all in all, Tennessee is home to me. While I was in Chicago I published my first book, Private Visions in Public Places, a coffee table book with someone else's photographs of the city. I got off the escalator one day in Water Tower Place and saw a bookstore window with a big display of the book. I have never recovered.
In between California and Chicago, I spent almost ten years heading up the marketing team for The Benson Company in Nashville, the major religious music firm that bore the family name. There followed several years as a freelance writer and editor, and two years on the staff of Upper Room Books. I graduated from The Academy for Spiritual Formation, a two-year program of study and prayer in community with some sixty people from across the South and also became a member of The Friends of Silence & of the Poor, an international prayer community.
Somewhere in there, I began to find my own voice. I had always written ' journals, bad adolescent poetry, advertising, even ghostwriting a couple of books. I even made a living at it. One day I discovered that I could no longer write for hire, because I could not get my own voice out of my head and it was time to begin to write my own stories.
I write two kinds of books about one thing ' paying attention.
I write about paying attention for the things that can point us to the Sacred in our lives. About the longings that we have for home and community and a sense of belonging in our lives. About practice and ritual and work and contemplation and the way that such things can be constant reminders of who we are and who we are to become.
One kind of book that I writes is overtly religious. They are books that are written for readers who are interested in discussing such things in the traditional language that the Church uses ' the language of spirituality and prayer and liturgy, the language of religion.
The second kind of book is less overtly religious. They are written to try and discover the holy, if you will, that is to be found in the ordinary. They are written about more general subjects, everything from baseball to gardening to travel
So now there is a body of work that has been published to favorable reviews from The New York Times, USA Today, and other major newspapers, critical acclaim from the publishing community as evidenced by the reviews in Publishers' Weekly, BookPage, and other reviewers, and notable comments from other writers in the field of spirituality. All of which is pretty surprising to me.
I have somehow managed to stumble into living almost exactly the kind of life to which I have been drawn since I was old enough to wonder about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I live in Nashville still where I write every day in a small studio in our back garden, see my children and their friends every time I get a chance, and take seriously the call to participate in the prayer that sanctifies the day and the work of the world. I am married to the literary agent Sara Fortenberry, for whom I am gratefully yard man, travel companion and head librarian. And I get to say yes a few times a year to opportunities to lead seminars and retreats on prayer, silence, writing, and spirituality, subjects I have led dozens of retreats on around the country in recent years.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By saj on October 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an introduction to the whole concept of what we Catholics call the Liturgy of the Hours. Benson was brought up in the Nazarene tradition (he's now Episcopalian) and writes for a non-Catholic readership, but I suspect that many Catholics could profit from this beautifully written presentation. (It helps that Benson is a poet.)
Benson noted in an early chapter that on his morning drive to the store to pick up the papers he reads daily (hey, writers have to read!), he would pass several houses of worship. At that early hour, between 6:30 and 7:00 each morning, he noticed that the parking lots were busy as worshipers streamed back to their cars and went off to work. They were beginning the day with prayer as a community. He also noted that the houses of worship were: a mosque, a synagogue, and a Catholic Church. The churches of his own tradition were not the sites of such daily activity. But many Protestants are beginning to adopt the ancient prayer that Catholics and Orthodox Christians inherited from Judaism. And many Catholics are learning how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or are joining in morning prayer in their parish before daily Mass.
It never was supposed to be just for monks, deacons and priests: we are all supposed to be participating in the prayer that the Body of Christ (that would be us) offers to the Father. Believe it or not, for about a thousand years, everyone was expected to come to Church daily for morning prayer: it was part of being a believer! That started getting lost at the time of the Renaissance; the Reformation finished the job in many places. (I recall from reading that at least in Italy in the late 1800's, parishioners were expected on Sundays to attend not just the Mass, but also Evening Prayer in their local Church.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Diane Noble on May 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I "inhaled" IN CONSTANT PRAYER my first time through, and now I'm rereading it, savoring every page. Already, it has completely changed my approach to and understanding of the sacredness of praying the daily office. I've just ordered three more copies to give away as gifts. Thank you, Robert, for the gift you have given us in this book. It is a treasure.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin A. Simpson VINE VOICE on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Do you pray the hours? I can't say that I do. But that doesn't mean that I'm not fascinated by the practice itself, believing that the discipline of praying at appointed times and the benefit of reciting well composed, theologically sound, and carefully crafted prayers can immensely further spiritual growth. I never have given much thought to taking up the practice of praying the hours until I read Robert Benson's In Constant Prayer, another volume in The Ancient Practices Series. But now I've been challenged to consider it very seriously.

With delightful prose, Benson describes the daily office. He plainly tells us about the church's tradition of faithfully praying together, whether gathered or apart, at appointed times and hours. He tells us how we are able to grow by disciplining ourselves to pray at designated moments, noting the subtle intersection between the daily and the divine. And all along he adds color to his discussion of how and why we pray the words given to us at a common hour by telling delightful stories from his experiences as a writer, a speaker, and a friend.

Some of you might be wondering, what is the daily office? In common usage, praying the daily office simply means to pray at appointed times of day. In many prayer books, these appointed times are Morning Prayer, Noontime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline Prayer (Bed-time). These prayers normally take a certain shape, beginning with a call to prayer, followed by a psalm of invitation (such as Psalm 95 or Psalm 121). This is then followed by a collect, or gathering prayer. Then a canticle, or a hymn of praise is read, then an appointed psalm or psalms.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on October 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Okay, the author states that this is not a book for everyone - I certainly agree. The target audience appears to be Christians outside the liturgical system, minimally familar with prayer other than petitionary and intercessory, unused to a corporate rather than individual orientation and who want to explore their "spiritual development" in a more organized way.

To this particular audience, Benson's neighborly and verbose style is, perhaps, both appropriate and effective. Without any "preachiness" he disarms most objections to the practice of praying the liturgical hours. As one from a tradition where Morning and Evening prayer has long been part of the parish life, I found his constant reference to prayerbooks being daunting (very true) rather than offering practical advice on how to learn to navigate them a bit annoying.

However, I loved Benson's discription of getting his morning paper - passing Muslim, Jewish and Catholic congregations just leaving morning prayer. Perhaps, it is because I could easily be in those congregations, that I found Benson's book to be a nice essay expanded into a book length tome.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
In Constant Prayer (Ancient Practices Series) by Robert Benson is the first book that I received through BookSneeze.

I liked this book.

In Constant Prayer is one book in a series of books called The Ancient Practices that explores many of those ancient practices of the early Christians. This book in the series, written by Robert Benson, is meant to be a study of the practice of praying the "daily office."

If I understand it correctly, the Daily Office is the practice of praying a set number of times each day. This practice brings to mind certain monastic settings. Images of monks getting up to say their morning prayers, meeting together to say their afternoon prayers, and seeing each other again to say their evening prayers before they head off to their cells.

As far as the author is concerned, Robert Benson is really a very good writer. As I read through this book I found each page to be enticing and entertaining, but also very personal. He opened up his life, in small ways, to reveal his desire to pray, his encounters with the daily office, and his understanding of this ancient practice. I felt compelled, as I continued through the book, to consider taking up this particular practice.

I did find the book lacking in two specific ways. One was a lack of specific historical examples. He would make comments concerning the historicity of this practice, but the actual examples to validate the claim seemed to be strangely lacking. The second area where I found this book to be lacking was in its use of scripture. Other than at the beginning of chapters, I don't recall one Biblical quote with a reference. There were passages that were alluded to, but the only reason I knew that was because I recognized the scripture.
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