« A New Kind of (Old) Prayer: Some Perspective | Main | Border War I »

February 06, 2009

An Old Kind of (New) Prayer: Some Resources

_DSC5236_37_38_39_40_41_42-vi What resources are available to a person who would like to begin to step into the stream and tradition of prayer that is called the divine office? There are a great number of good resources to be discovered and employed.

As with anything new it helps to have a sense of what and why and how to do what you desire to do. Towards that end it is always possible to add more knowledge to our practice. Of course that is not always the answer either, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, of the pursuit of knowledge there is no end. Its acquisition often does nothing more than delay action or diminish rather than enhance impact. Nevertheless, if you desire more learning about praying the office, let me recommend two resources. I've already linked in a previous post to a sermon I preached during Lent last year that gives an overview of this type of prayer. You can listen to Learning the Rhythms of Prayer as one way to add depth to your practice. The other way is a new book by our same author, Robert Benson. Whereas A Good Life uses one short chapter to expose us to the rhythm and practice of prayer, In Constant Prayer is an entire book devoted to learning to pray the office. It is a great book that I read in three days. In fact it is part of a new series edited by Phyllis Tickle called The Ancient Practices Series. It's worth checking out.

One of the concepts that is introduced in the prayer literature is the concept of being called to prayer by the ringing of the bells. This practice dates to the Roman world where a bell would be rung at the beginning of the day to signal the opening of the market (sound familiar?), and then at intervals throughout the day thereon. First Jews, then Christians, living in the Roman empire would hear the bells ring but rather than respond according to the dictates of an imperial day, would instead respond to the bells as a summons by God to prayer. Throughout the book of Acts you can see the disciples going to the temple to prayer at different hours of the day. This is what is happening. So, the question for us is how can we likewise be summoned to prayer throughout the day? How can we be reminded of our ultimate allegiance and dependence on God as we do our work in the world?

A friend set the alarm on his phone to sound at specific times every day and inspired me to do the same. Last year Jacob's Well set up a Twitter feed during Lent that sent text messages to cell phone users that subscribed to the feed with a psalm to pray. Still other people use the meals of the day to create the space for prayer, being reminded that "man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Like I said, I have set my phone to ring an alarm four times a day: at 8:00 a.m. (morning), 11:25 a.m. (midday), 4:25 p.m. (evening), and 10:00 p.m. (night). I don't always pray every office. A good day is two times. But every time the bells ring (it is a ring-tone that sounds like church bells!), my thoughts turn to God and I at least acknowledge his presence in the moment. Whether you decide to prayer once, twice, four, or seven times a day, having something call you to prayer helps.

Finally, what liturgical prayer resources are available? There are many resources to choose from -  in fact maybe too many to be helpful. My advice is to begin simply. There are three different prayer books I recommend that I have used:

I would recommend beginning with Tickle's small prayer book, or with the one from Glenstal Abbey.

Fortunately, if you sit in front of a computer screen all day, there a some good online prayer resources to use as well.

The Northumbria Community's daily office mentioned above is available online. It is the prayer liturgy I use it when I don't have access to my prayer book. Also, the site Mission St. Clare offers a slightly more involved but yet accessible office to be used.

In all this, have fun and love God. Remember prayer is one part of a rhythm of life meant to be good and connected to our Creator. The peace of Christ be with you all. Amen.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference An Old Kind of (New) Prayer: Some Resources:



Another book that I really enjoyed was The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. It explores a lot of different ways of praying beyond that of the Divine Office.

Tim Keel

Tony's book is a great resource, Adam. Thanks for that.


Tim, thanks for this list of resources. I'll def be checking out Tickle's small book.

Lindsey O

I wish I was reading along in Benson's book but other studies hold my attention now. However, I'm familiar with Benson and am grateful for his work. I've been praying the office (in part) for the last 5 years with Benson's book Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer (Putnum, 2000). I so enjoy joining my prayers to the church universal, past and present, and praying words that are not my own as a way of being formed, transformed, grown-up, blessed, and challenged. There is also space in this book for adding one's own specifics prayers- the balance is good. I love the way the morning office prayer begins, "God said let there be light"; and there was light, And God saw that the light was good. This very day the Lord has acted. May God's name be praised". I'm reminded before my day begins, God has acted, God is at work. I'm a Benson fan...more a Jesus fan but Benson helps me.

The comments to this entry are closed.

March 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31