I struggle with prayer. I pray a lot, but never as much I would like to. I’m over the concept of guilt at not praying but I haven’t managed the art of prayerfully doing everything I do in a day. It’s something I would really like to learn over the years. And I think it takes years to learn much about prayer and I like to read books, old and new, about prayer.
Jared Brock’s book “A Year of Living Prayerfully. How a curious traveler met the pope, walked on coals, danced with rabbis, and revived his prayer life” is a book that you can’t read without a pen in hand. Brock is one of those writers whose prose constantly surprises and who has a knack for giving just the right quote to a thought, even if he has little to offer a prayerful person about this important aspect of the walk of faith.
His is also the only book bout prayer I’ve read that was this funny, where most approach it as a very serious topic (and in a way it is) Brock tackles it from the perspective of a person trying to figure it out, and when you put us at the centr rather than God or prayer…things can get pretty funny pretty quickly. We’ve all been there, laughing at ourselves as we try to pray, feeling absurd, not knowing what to do with our hands or what to say.
This book is laugh at loud funny at times. His dry wit and his openness to the absurd or hypocritical is a breathe of fresh air. He doesn’t complain or write bitterly about the white cave that he realizes has been painted white for show; he sees the humor in it. He makes fun of himself and is open with his emotions, especially as he goes to visit Benny Hinn with much trepidation and fighting the feelings of hope he has for healing. He sees the humor in many moments that would have left me exasperated, his book is a good reminder that much in life is about our outlook and perspective. He also poignantly stands by one of his idols, Billy Graham, even when he turns out to be harder to meet than Pope Francis.
More of a travelogue than anything else this book will make you want to visit certain sites (and avoid others). It reminds Christians that we are part of a very big catholic church and that we have brothers and sisters all over the world doing all sorts of amazing things. He also reminds us that no matter how pristine a place we find ourselves in we may not be able to find the inner quiet. Again, life has a lot to do with our inner dialogue and level of gratitude.
The book didn’t really teach me much about prayer, try as it might, but that didn’t make it any less interesting to read. In this sense the book felt a little lacking. I can only be me though and it may that you learn a great deal about prayer from Jared Brock, especially if you are newer to the walk of faith. I suppose it’s because the book seeks to take the posture of a novice, someone learning to pray, and because he has been in the presence of so many great and prayerful people he feels reluctant to be particularly didactic. That beings said I really appreciated a quote he offers from Rodney Smith “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” It’s a great thought. Especially if you believe as so many have over the years that the only way to have a vibrant prayer life is to just start praying, no tricks, no gimmicks, no easy paths.