I really liked this book, and it’s metaphorical smorgasbord of varieties of ways to pray. As someone in our book group said last night, “It is a doing book more than a reading book.”
This is a slim volume, but take your time and savor so many different approaches to the divine. You may find some ways that are more expansive for you, some that are fresher and more novel, some spicier, others that are more nourishing. Why eat the same old junk food, when you could instead delight in all the range of flavors available?
There are lots of ideas in this book. One of them is to paint your prayer, which I highly recommend, and do all the time. Another one I liked and will start to do, is to pray for someone when you think about them on their birthday. Or how about this one: write down all the verbs and verb phrases in Psalm 147. We can all see better, how “God’s mercy endureth forever,” especially as that relates to problems in our lives. And as one of the exercises shows, we can all try and bless people more. This is feel good stuff and exploring lots of these avenues to connect with and interact with the divine is satisfying, meaningful, and fun.
Here are some quotes from the book that I marked for you:
- There is no longer any reason prayer should be synonymous with boring.
- Consider a worry that you have about growing older and imagine it dissolving in thin air.
- Some of my Protestant and evangelical friends have a problem with the word meditation because it is so widely used in other religions and the New Age movement. I’d like to push back a bit on this reaction with three thoughts: 1) Meditation is a thoroughly Biblical practice. A quick word search will reveal a wide variety of passages in Genesis, Joshua, Psalms, and a couple in the New Testament, even in the King James Version. 2) Meditation is a spiritual human activity like mourning, fasting, or praying, and is not limited only to one religious group while remaining unavailable to others. 3)Meditation and contemplation are in some ways more mature means of praying. Practicing them signals that you have moved beyond default-mode praying– simply asking for things for yourself or for others around you. It indicates that your relationship with God is changing from a monologue to a dialogue.
- Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating on it.
- I remember a popular conference speaker humorously dealing with the inherent craziness of expecting immediate divine intervention by pretending to be a TV weatherman giving the forecast in real time as various religious groups in the region were praying about the weather. It went something like this: “As you can see we have low pressure developing here for the weekend, so look out for the rain…Oh wait, the ladies of a church are praying for clear skies for their picnic, so now we are seeing the low pressure system shift to the south…oh no… hang on… now the farmer’s have gathered to pray for much-needed rain for their crops and the low pressure seems to be remaining in one place and intensifying…”
It is no surprise that I’d love the fusion between creativity and spirituality, but our whole book group loved this book too, and said they will continue to refer to it in the future. It is a kind and even-handed text, never with a top down in tone, undogmatic and gloriously open to expanding spiritual practice into unknown territory. I give Pray like a Gourmet five stars. Take it slow and experiment with the methods as you read. Maybe do it together with a friend. You’ll be glad you did.