There has been a move towards a more contemplative spirit in Protestantism, and in small way, ]] and Intervarsity Press has been filling this void over the past decade. This short devotional will help those who are seeking something more than that which has been offered by the devotional industry of late. Much like Tyndale House’s ]], this book takes us into the writings of the early Church Fathers as we prepare our minds to commune with God. Built on the ]] set, this devotional supplies the reader with 40 days on communing with God through those who have gone on before.
Prayer is important to the Christian soul. We have real evidence, real medical evidence, that those who pray more, live happier. Maybe it’s just a wholeness thing, but for the entirety of the Christian experience, we have been counseled by those who have gone before to always pray. Indeed, as the authors note, Paul says to pray without ceasing. So, prayer is important. In mainline church traditions, the Daily Office is an important part of keeping schedule with other Christians, providing a reality in which the Church Universal is following Paul’s commandments and this has been done since the rise of the monastic orders, when the Church seemed to realize that it must dedicate some part of itself to constantly and consistently communing with God. It is no surprise, then, that this short devotional begins with the confessional prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer. This is a prayer of repentance, and one which sets the person in a mindset of daily repenting. It is not just this prayer which comes from the Book of Common Prayer, but indeed, many of the textual patterns do as well (p8).
The pattern for the daily devotionals are the Invocation followed by the prayer of Confession. Next is the invitatory, Scripture reading, closing prayer and suggestions for further reading. Following the Scripture reading we find the reflections from the Church Fathers which includes two different voices. There are the familiar voices, such as Augustine, Origen, and Chrysostom, as well as the unfamiliar voices, such as Romanus Melodus. Equally attached to the Church Fathers is the closing prayer, such as the prayer in Week Three, for Thursday, which comes from the Gelasian Sacramentary,
O God, the Life of the faithful, the strong Helper of them that call upon you: listen to our supplications; and as you put within us a hearty desire to pray, so grant us, O most Loving, your aid and comfort in our prayers; and may the souls that thirst for your promises be filled from your abundance; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
So, it is not just the great theologians which we meet in prayer, but prayer traditions which have been said by countless Christians over the centuries.
I guess the last question is, really, whether or a not a book devoted to Lenten prayer could or should be used daily. Maybe we could only pull it out once a year and mumble through them for forty days while we give up or make more time as part of our practices. I suspect, that while this book will be picked up generally for Lent, if the reader connects to the traditions continue therein, then perhaps it will ignite a fire in the person to continue to pray with the Church daily, throughout the seasons. After all, the Church Fathers and Scripture are open to us at each hour, finding in them the Gates of Heaven. What’s left for Intervarsity Press is to take books like this, and their Ancient Christian Commentaries and develop a prayer book for the season of the Church which are filled up with the days of the week.