Prayer for the Senses, a Book Review of A Bead and A Prayer by Kristen Vincent

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I sit with people in a practice we call spiritual direction, in which a central question is “How can I pray?” I am by character a “Word” person, one who responds well to spoken liturgy, to written prayers, and to words that come from within my own heart ad mind. However, I sit with many people for whom words are not a primary mode in which they communicate; they are more sensate, more activity driven, more aware of touch and sight, texture and color. For these seekers and other friends, I am always glad to be able to discover a resource that carefully and thoughtfully delineates a sensory prayer practice. Kristin Vincent has given us such a resource.

Her winsome story of being called to the ministry of Protestant prayer beads is a compelling one, as she both senses her own need and deliberately researches the history of the prayer practice. She is gentle and persuasive as she traces the history of sensory prompts for prayer, and of historical Protestant resistance to those prompts. She wisely sketches both literally and figuratively a process for learning to make and to pray with prayer beads in a four week “retreat” to be shared with others. Her directions are clear, and her list of resources is ample. It includes her own website. I can imagine this book being a joyful centerpoint for a gathering of people who long to pray more completely with their bodies.

As I was reading this book, following the portions of Scripture that she chose for each section, I could think of one person after another who would find this mode of prayer, of integrating body and spirit, a welcome addition to her repertoire ways both to speak to God and to listen for Holy Wisdom. I am delighted to add to my collection of sensory ways of prayer—labyrinth, collage, drawing, dance—this path into Holy Presence in prayer, a path limned out with faithfulness, with clarity and with passion in this book.

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who writes on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture, and what is happening in the world--hers, her neighborhood, the Church and the world. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.


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