Writing a Book on Prayer

Due only in part to the results of my Facebook Question, I’m going to take a stab at writing (another) book on prayer.  I’ve written two books specifically on prayer in the past, and one on spiritual practices in general, prayer included.  But this book will be more about the why of prayer than the how of prayer.

By way of preparation, I will start reading about prayer, capturing quotes and the like.  Earlier this week, I came across two very different artifacts on prayer.  The gap between these two show just how wide is the spectrum on how people understand prayer.

The first is this video, since gone viral, of a prayer before a NASCAR race:

The second is this quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel:

To speak about prayer is indeed presumptuous. There are no devices, no techniques; there is no specialized art of prayer. All of life must be a training to pray. We pray the way we live.

What are your favorite thoughts, quotes, and resources regarding prayer?

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  • Scot Miller

    “I pray God rid me of God.” — Meister Eckhart, German sermon 52.

  • The Misfit Toy

    Sweet. I enjoyed the wild goose session you did on the subject. You hold some great questions about prayer. I’m looking forward to reading this thing.

    I just have to say, about the NASCAR prayer, that after you are done mocking it, that you take a second look at it. He is celebrating the things which make life good. He is seeing God in all the things he finds beautiful. He is taking a religious ritual and mining it for meaning in his local context. Maybe we should be learning how to pray like this?

    • Gotcha, MT. Good point. I’m actually kind of in awe of this guy.

  • “The fact is, I believe it to be itself one of those things which, judged by our weakness, are impossible, clearly to set forth with accuracy and reverence a complete account of prayer, and in particular of how prayer ought to be offered, what ought to be said to God in prayer, which seasons are more, which less, suitable for prayer . . . The very apostle who by reason of the abundance of the revelations is anxious that no one should account to him more than he sees or hears from him, confesses that he knows not how to pray as he ought, for what we ought to pray, he says, we know not how to as we ought. It is necessary not merely to pray but also to pray as we ought and to pray what we ought. For even though we are enabled to understand what we ought to pray, that is not adequate if we do not add to it the right manner also.” – Origen, On Prayer, Ch I

  • Jesus himself taught his followers a prayer which includes a clause asking God for forgiveness. He must have thought we would go on needing it.
    ~N.T. Wright: Simply Christian

  • I do not think I would have made it through seminary with my faith in tact were it not for discovering Walter Brueggemann’s “Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.”

  • Catie Coots

    I often think about what it means to pray unceasingly. It says so much about life, and our attitude towards it, or what it should be as people of faith; but it also says something about prayer. I find it so meaningful to be on my knees in prayer, but obviously can’t do that unceasingly. I have given the occasional casual prayer: Lord help me…. In attitude towards life, I think I am inconsistent in approaching everything, looking at everything through the lens of faith, but I do try, and there is a way that just being aware of it makes a difference. But what does it mean to truly pray unceasingly?

  • Kristen

    From the Desert Fathers, I don’t know which one. He was asked which of the virtues was most difficult and he went through this whole long list, but prayer is the most difficult because “prayer is warfare to the last breath.”

  • Ryan Braley

    Is a coffee date still in the works for you and Boyd?

  • David Prince

    “God works with the world as it is to bring it toward what it can be. Prayer changes the way the world is, and therefore changes what the world can be. Prayer makes a difference to what God can do in and with the world. . . Prayer is God’s invitation to us to be willing partners in the great dance of bringing a world into being that reflects something of God’s character.” (Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki)

  • Deborah Arca

    This Thomas Merton Prayer always speaks to me, especially in the midst of the surreal week i seem to be having this week:

    My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
    I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
    Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
    But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
    And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.
    Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

  • Andrew

    After attending your talk at the Geodesic dome, in which you mentioned that you may attempt a new book about prayer, I am curious to hear a bit more! After that discussion, have you come to any conclusions? Or do you think the book will be more of a posing of questions? Would love to hear a bit more. I still think about that conversation and the challenging issues it has helped me think about more clearly.

  • Any idea which book by Heschel that quote is from? I am finding it all over the Internet the past few days, but would like to read the actual book it’s from. If anyone knows, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know! Thanks.

  • Found the answer to my own question: it’s in a speech made at Union Theological Seminary in 1958. Now, if anyone has a copy of the Union Seminary Quarterly Review 14-15, I’d love to see a copy of that speech. Please.

  • “I would rather confess that I am a rotten godmother, that I struggle with my weight, that I fear I am overly fond of Bombay Sapphire gin martinis than confess that I am a prayer-weakling. To say I love God but do not pray much is like saying I love life but I do not breathe much.” [Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World]

    The rest of her refreshingly honest chapter on prayer can be found here:

  • I will try to be terse. Perhaps I should add a longer version or two to my website.

    My prayer life changed dramatically when I switched from stock prayers of petition, adoration, supplication, thanksgiving, intercession, and the like to something very different. I switched from “pushing” prayers up to God to “pulling” his heart into mine. I switched from trying to control what God does to asking and allowing God to control what I do. It is an on-going conversation we have through the Holy Spirit throughout the day.

    Empathy prayers: “Lord, help me feel what she feels.”

    Unity prayers: “Lord, help me feel what you feel.” or “Help me see what you see.”

    Action prayers: “Lord, where are you at work here? Where would you like me to join you. I am willing. Use me. Give me an assignment, any assignment, and I will do as you ask.”

    Discernment prayers when faced with ANY decision: “Lord, which candidate should I vote for?”

    And, of course, branch-on-the-vine prayers: “Lord, help me speak with your words, touch with your touch, and love with your love.”

    What I have found is that the Holy Spirit wants to speak with us. The problem with hearing her is that we are often talking too much to listen and respond. And maybe, too, we feel uncomfortable with asking questions and carrying on a real back-and-forth conversation with the One with whom we profess to have a personal relationship.

    And at the end of a prayer, go ahead and say “amen” but don’t hang up the phone … it doesn’t mean “good-bye.”

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