Praying With the Church

I really track with Scot McKnight, author of Praying With the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today. Some parts of his spiritual journey parallel parts of mine. His tone as a writer and priorities as a Christ-follower resonate with me. So of course I found his book touting the wisdom and blessings of fixed-hour prayer an excellent and beautiful conversation.

Like McKnight, I have come from a spiritual background that generally considered spontaneous, freeform praying more spiritual and efficacious than the set liturgies and written prayers of "prayer book" traditions. But also like McKnight, I have since discovered great depth and breadth and height of blessing in praying--as he puts it--not only "in" the church but also "with" the church, by means of fixed hour prayer and such resources as The Book of Common Prayer and the multi-volume The Divine Hours.

After an introductory chapter that presents a great word-picture involving the Portiuncola of St. Francis inside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (which is then sustained throughout the rest of the book), the first section of Praying With the Church profiles the prayer life of Jesus, and makes the case for praying with him in "sacred time," "sacred terms," "sacred rhythms," "sacred prayers," and "sacred tradition."

The second section of the book offers an overview of the major prayer books of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican traditions, along with the more ecumenical (and my go-to prayer aid) The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle. He gives an overview, sampling the structure and prayers of each, and very helpfully lays out the best--and less-than-best--parts of each one. I must admit to being surprised that my familiarity with all but one of these resources didn't lessen my interest in and enjoyment of these chapters. They were as delightful as if I were encountering the information for the first time.

A concluding chapter lays out McKnight's nine suggestions--which he phrases as things we need to do--for ways anyone, no matter how busy or changeful their schedule, can pray with the church.

I loved this book, as I have already come to love the rhythms and benefits of daily fixed-hour prayer with the church. I have experienced what the author says on page 2: "Nearly everyone who practices a sacred rhythm of praying finds it life-shaping." I think everyone should read Praying With the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today and learn from it. I admit I am biased but (to borrow McKnight's own confession) I am also accurate.

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