Saturday, February 21, 2015

'Prayers for People who say they Can't Pray' by Donna Schaper


Sometimes the time you most need to pray is when you are least able to--these are the prayers you offer.


This book was written to help people who struggle with the notion of prayer, for whatever reason. Some may feel thrown in the deep end. They may have recently become Christians and are told, 'Now you have to go and pray,' after never having done such a thing before. Others are what she calls 'Cradle Christians' with a solid grasp of basics and traditions from the very outset, along with a feeling of boredom and dryness.

Schaper aims to show that although prayer needn't be formulaic, if written guides appeal to something in our hearts, we might as well go for it. Some of the prayers in her books are crafted for individuals and others for groups. Some end with the traditional 'Amen' and others don't. Her chapters cover all sorts of situations in which we might find the need for a bit of prayer help. In other words, whether we prefer off-the-cuff spontaneity or some written form to refer to, it's all good, as it is not our methods but God's working which is responsible for the results of prayer.

The author introduces each chapter with a thought-provoking section detailing exactly what she's talking about, which I'm sure many readers will appreciate. It's good to have a book like this, reminding us that God doesn't treat prayers like exam conditions. Although I'm not sure I agree with every point made within the pages, it's good to have some sort of guide like this, rather than just shoving people off to their own devices with no experience or ideas.

In the last section, she puts forward some interesting ideas and tips about writing our own prayers, including where we focus our attention and how we may choose to go about editing. I like how she suggests that not everyone can pray briefly, and brevity is actually an art. I've had several brushes with people who seem to believe the opposite. And she's quite right when she gets us reflecting that prayer is a different sort of discipline than most others, since we're not even supposed to aim to become 'experts' or achieve a platform to show off. She finishes off by suggesting that if we have trouble praying, we may, in fact, be perfectionists, as prayer is a perfect practice for imperfectionists. Hmm, that's worth considering.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and Net Galley for my review copy.

3.5 stars

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