AS LENT approaches, we begin to reflect on how best we might use this special time in our church year. All the five books reviewed here are on the subject of prayer, and thus offer some options. They may be helpful to anyone looking for a more fulfilling prayer experience. [pullquote]
Manna in the Wilderness – The conversational format of this book makes it an easy read on a superficial level. It is, however, sprinkled with rich nuggets of spiritual truths, which serve to confront and challenge the reader. These truths are simply stated and open the way for an honest look at ourselves: “we want to improve but we don’t want to change.” In contrast, some popular misconceptions about the nature of prayer are exposed; this brings balance to the text. This book warrants reading more than once.
The Habit of Prayer – Do not dismiss this slim volume as yet another book of printed prayers. It will be largely what you make of it. The contents offer opportunities for those who need support in developing prayer in their life. The introduction expresses clearly some important truths about the foundational nature of prayer. Daily seasonal and topical prayers are included and can be helpful when our own words fail us. Kept in the car, office desk, purse, or briefcase, this book can help us redeem idle moments.
The Heart of Silence – The gift in this book is the careful use of words to describe spiritual experience. It consists of a collection of compelling personal stories. As these stories unfold, one is left with a clear sense of journey. Included is a section on the why and how of the meditative approach. The worldwide influence of the Benedictine monk and teacher John Main surfaces in most stories. For those who are weary of noise and words, the contemplative approach may provide the way to silence and stillness.
Every Earthly Blessing – The second edition of this carefully written book was no doubt necessitated by the increasing popularity of Celtic spirituality. Monastic in origin, the Celtic way looks at prayer “not as a formal exercise but rather as a state of mind.” We must look at its monastic roots to see the high standards set. This is an “expression of Christianity where there is no room for mediocrity.” Celtic spirituality has something to say to today’s self-indulgent society where there is little emphasis on the simple way of life. It is about learning to live with ourselves so we are able to live with others.
Friendship with Jesus – If you seek to know God and not merely to know about God, this book is for you. The Gospel of Mark is the perfect background for this imaginative contemplation of Scripture in the Ignatian style of prayer. The author describes it accurately as “an approach to the Gospel of Mark not as an intellectual exercise but as a whole person encounter.” The author discovered that “praying the Scripture allows us to enter into the story, listen to the story as a personal word, and relate it to present reality.” This methodically written book is a fine balance of shared experience and “how to.” Eight different ways to use the book are described. The element of journalling opens endless possibilities and can be spiritually therapeutic. Journalling is intensely personal and the results reflect the uniqueness of us. Stories can change us.
Eleanor Fairhead is a member of the executive of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, Canada.