Friday, May 19, 2006

Scott McKnight’s Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today (PwC) is a marvelous book. It’s so good that last night I read half of it, and today I plan to finish it. McKnight, a fine Protestant theologian, grew up in a church that deliberately avoided the use of prayer books; instead, his tradition exclusively practiced and were good at spontaneous prayers.” He was taught that you can “catch spiritual infections from set prayers” and that “there was a spiritually dangerous connection between set prayers and impersonal faith.” But what McKnight has come to discover is that “the Bible, Jesus, and the Church teach that we can learn to use set prayers at set times and pray with the Church and mean every word we say and, as a result, grow both personally and as a community of faith.”

To help us understand what praying with [McKnight likes to italicize that word!] means, he tells the story of his family’s trip to Assisi, the home of St. Francis and St. Clare. Looking for the little church, the Portiuncola, that Francis famously rebuilt, McKnight finally located it—of all places!-- housed within a huge basilica so that architecturally it’s now “a church within a church.” Using this architectural image, McKnight compares his early prayer life with that of a life praying in the little church; his traditional prayer life was private, sequestered, closeted. His prayers, although always earnest, sincere, and mostly spontaneous, was always prayed "in the church."

Now, some years later, McKnight wants to share with us what it’s like to pray, not only "in the little church," but "with the Church," in the great big basilica, to pray with the whole Church, to pray with all the people of God, to pray with everyone with everyone in heaven and on earth.
McKnight does not disparage “in-the-church” praying. He treasures praying in the church. He does, however, wish to show us how to widen, deepen, and open our praying to larger possibilities. Showing us how to do such praying is what his book is all about. If you're interested in deepening and expanding your life with God and those whom he loves, you may well wish to read this book and share your comments.

More tomorrow!

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