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Book reviews >

Daily Prayer for All Seasons

Christopher Woods tries a prayer book

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Daily Prayer for All Seasons: A contemporary Benedictine prayer companion
Canterbury Press £17.99
(978-1-84825-898-3)
Church Times Bookshop £16.20

 

THIS innovative and fresh approach to the traditional monastic hours of regular prayer during the day will surely attract a wide spectrum of people, from seekers to those with a more established pattern of prayer.

Daily Prayer for all Seasons: A contemporary Benedictine prayer companion sets out to provide succinct and yet powerful bursts of prayer at several points during the day: at the very start, in the middle of the morning, at midday, in the afternoon, at the end of the day, at bedtime, and even during the night.

There are several attractive qualities to this companion. It provides a little bit of a tutorial at the beginning, with a snippet of detail about how monks would pray. The tutorial is written in an accessible but non-patronising style (a seasoned liturgist would be attracted to it as well as someone new to faith). It is structured seasonally; so one can easily be immersed in the time of the Church’s year and engage with Christians praying in other places. And most striking of all is the choice of headings for each hour of prayer (what the editors call “the inner structure”).

At first, I found them unusual, but on further reflection I became strangely attracted to them. For example, to think about “praise” at the very break of day and to consider the mid-morning moment of prayer to be about “discernment” is appropriate and comforting, as we “step through” the points of each day. The hour of prayer entitled “Watch” could be used easily for a variety of purposes: during a night shift, when one can’t sleep, or when one is awake during the night for the sake of someone else.

This prayer book could be feasibly used flexibly: as a go-to manual of prayer when we feel the need to spend time with God at a point in the day; when commuting, or when needing to be calmed. It could also be used as a form of “retreat” in daily life, perhaps on holiday. Perhaps even a new and developing monastic community, a 24-7 Prayer room, or an intentionally gathered group of people could find this volume an essential diet for a regular rhythm of prayer and worship.

As I have used the short acts of prayer, I have been struck by the strength and joy I have received by delving into beautiful moments of prayer: both familiar and new.

 

The Revd Christopher Woods is Vicar of St Anne’s, Hoxton, in the diocese of London.

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