I’m not sure why it took me so long to read Jared Brock’s A Year of Living Prayerfully (Tyndale, 2015). I had promised to write a book review. I kept dipping into it now and then. But somehow I also kept setting the book aside in favour of other reading. It seemed as if Jared’s year of living prayerfully might last that long for me too.
And yet I learned a lot from this book in spite of myself. As a self-described “curious traveler,” Jared invites readers to join him on a journey that includes how he “met the Pope, walked on coals, danced with rabbis, and revived his prayer life.” His engaging and entertaining style quickly put us on a first-name basis.
The book is part travelogue as Jared travels to Jerusalem to pray at the Wailing Wall, to Italy to meet the Pope, to Spain to walk a mile of the Camino, to monasteries in Greece and France, to the USA where he fails in his quest to meet Billy Graham, but pays a visit to the Westboro Baptist Church.
It’s part history lesson as he describes what he’s learned about Teresa of Avila, Saint Francis of Assisi, Brother Lawrence, and other saints. It’s part prayer journal as he shares some of his own experiments in prayer–like starting to pray for just a few minutes and working up to an hour, and learning to pray the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis.
Although the subject of prayer might be serious, Jared’s tone is light-hearted, as in this description of Teresa of Avila:
I peeked into Teresa’s bedroom, the simple cell where she slept for over twenty-seven years. I recalled that Teresa is the patron saint of headache sufferers, and this can easily be explained after seeing her pillow. It is a literal block of wood. (142)
Or in this comment:
That was it, right there. That was my prayer metaphor. Prior to this year of living prayerfully, prayer was simply asking for keys to the car and money for the mall. Now, I’m just trying to hang out with Dad. (296).
I especially appreciate his conclusion:
One year ago, prayer was a way of asking things from God. Today it has a prized new definition for me: prayer is simply a constant communion with Christ.
After an intense year of learning about prayer from some of the best sources on earth, I don’t feel like I’m further along. If anything, I feel like a first-year university student–I now know all the things I don’t know–all the things I haven’t yet learned, understood, or experienced. I am not, in any way, a prayer expert. I’m a failing student who’s playing catch-up, at best. Rather than coming to the end of the journey, I’ve only just begun. And I’m okay with that.
Like parenting or marriage or a lifelong friendship, communion with God is a thing to be enjoyed over decades of intimate relationship, not mastered over a quick year of fact gathering and story chasing. (312-313)
It sounds to me as if Jared learned a lot from his year of living prayerfully.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What have you learned about prayer in the last year?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Tyndale Blog Network.
As in all my reviews, the opinions I’ve expressed here are my own.
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