The Point: It is important for Christians to pray both in and with the church. That is , our individual prayers are important and form our lives, but we also should be involved in corporate prayer. One way to be involved in corporate prayer is to pick up a prayer book and begin praying the "offices" These are set times during the day that different traditions stop whatever they are doing and pray together. Traditionally there are 7 offices. By practicing some of them (2 or 3 is manageable for most average people), we create a rythm of prayer that helps us get through our day. Jesus practiced fixed hour prayer as a disciplined Jew, and so ought we (many of the examples Scot uses are in the book of Acts, where a person was praying in the fixed hours and God speaks to them: i.e. pentecost, Peter and Cornelius)
He addresses common misconceptions, chief of which is the idea that by praying set prayers, they become vain repetitions. McKnight remarks, "if our prayers have become vain repetitions, it is because our heart is not engaged, not because of what we say . . . we need both [spontaneous and practiced prayers]" (6).
McKnight continues by explaining the benefits of fixed hour prayer, how to start doing it, what books different traditions use, and how we can benefit from our brothers and sisters, and then a practical guide on getting started. Overall, THIS IS A GREAT MANUAL FOR SOMEONE WANTING TO START THIS TRADITION.
The Good: Excellent, approachable guide on practicing a tradition that keeps our relationship with God central to our lives. He approaches the subject with grace and truth, not condemning us for not practicing fixed hour prayer, but also encouraging us to start. I started reading Phyllis Tickle's Divine Hours (pocket edition) on a somewhat usual basis while reading the manual and loved it. I am looking forward to continuing in this tradition.
His introductions to the various prayer books was very helpful, and had online versions to try out as well.
The Bad: It gets really redundant after about chapter 3. He could have shared the same amount of information in half the space. It is not particularly engaging midway through the book, and it was somewhat of a burden to work my way all the way through.
The Grade: B- Just above average due to the repetition. A good intro.