Praying With the Church
Scot McKnight is one of my favorite writers. He has the perfect mix of information, history, theology, illustration, and application. I just finished reading Praying With the Church and it is a wonderful book about the discipline of fixed hour prayer.
I was first introduced to fixed hour prayer by Phyllis Tickle in 2008. Fixed hour prayer was practiced by the Jews and the early church. You see Daniel praying three times a day. The psalmist talks of praying in the morning, noon, and night. Peter prayed at noon and 3pm (Acts 3:1; 10:9, 30) two of the set times of prayer. The people of God stopped what they were doing to pray three times a day. I had never thought about the fact that we have an example of the early church participating in fixed hour prayer.
But what did the early church pray? This is the first part of McKnight’s book. The early church would have prayed the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and maybe a variation from Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 22:3739). Some Jews would have also said the ten commandments after the Shema. The early church prayed the Lord’s prayer three times a day according to the Didache. They would have also prayed through the whole book of Psalms every month.
Praying with the church is basically praying the prayers that all the apostles and early church would have prayed three times a day. You can still get a Psalter to help you pray through the Psalms. I have the NIV Psalter. The Psalms are divided by morning, noon, and evening and themes.
“The reason Psalms are repeated in the sacred rhythm of prayer is that they continue to teach us how to pray; the reason the Shema is repeated so often is that it summons us to the central orientation of our heart: to lobe Hod with every molecule we can mister (pg 51).”
The rest of the book focuses on 4 prayer books :Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and The Divine Hours. Prayer books often include the Psalms, the Lord’s prayer, a reading based on the church calendar, and excerpts from songs, writings, and prayers of others. I have used The Divine Hours and found it very helpful. I skip some sections for theological purposes but in an average quarter you will only skip maybe 1% of the contents.
At first the thought of using a prayer book was foreign and I guess I thought sinful. Once I got one I realized that 95% of the book is scripture. It is saying the Psalms and other prayers in the Bible. It is reading scripture. The other 5% is poems, songs, and short 3-4 sentence prayers.Two great advantages of using a prayer book or psalter is that you are praying the psalms. You are learning how to pray and talk to God. Second it helps you pray during those times when your spirit is dry and don’t want to pray.
This is a great little book to help you become familiar with the prayer tradition of the church through church history.