My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grew up within the Protestant tradition where [I thought that] I had a strong personal prayer life; I was hoping for a little help with the public, extemporaneous prayer expected from a community leader, and where I seem to struggle a bit (I usually crib them on a piece of paper in advance) ... this book doesn't do that. So after my initial disappointment, I settled in for what I believed would be a quick review. As expected, the author starts off with why we should pray and defining what prayer is ... including nine (9) types of prayer many people do without actually realizing they are doing it. There is a good mix of personal story and cited sources here that continues through the rest of the book and makes it all exceptionally relatable. After a brief treatment of rote or formal prayers in chapter 8, the book moves into more of the Ignatian traditions that I actually don't have much experience with (but seem to be gaining significant attention from those working toward a deeper and richer prayer life). Fr. Martin hits the Daily Examen first ... with a quick segue into what happens when you pray and how to discern God's voice ... I must have highlighted half of each chapter here in my kindle as a quick reference. This is not something that I have thought much about, nor was it really discussed much in any detail growing up.

After the Examen, we get Ignatian Contemplation, which leans heavily on imagination ... which can be difficult for those of us who tend toward more analytical/concrete thinking. Fr Martin breaks it all down into easy steps and deals with each individually before bringing all together to great effect. After that, we get a chapter on Lectio Divina ... which seems to be all the rage today (at least in my diocese). Again I found a good definition of what it is, what steps are involved and how to do them. Straight up and simple, which is probably why this chapter was relatively short. I was surprised to find Centering Payer next, since it can be controversial with some Catholics (precisely because of the perception of non-christian influence from the East). Fr. Martin deals with this quite well by reminding us to be sure that we keep the presence of God front of 'center' when we use this technique). Nature prayer (or the "Gaze of Jesus" is next and it calls to mind my own encounters with God's creation and how I felt at the time; reminding me that it is important to continue to seek out these encounters. Chapter 16 talks about some of the tools we can use in our prayer life: spiritual direction (new for me), retreats (with a list of several types), faith sharing (which I like to think of as my strong suit) and journaling (which is my weakest).

So ... after all of that ... why are some folks not satisfied with their payer life? Chapter 17 on expectations and the "ups and and downs of the spiritual life" may help. This is something that I don't often see ... an acknowledgement that sometimes you just don't feel like anything worked and that makes it more likely that you may get discouraged. Fr Martin has some practical advice on how to tweak a few things ... but the best advice is to simple remember is that God is in charge here ... and sometimes unanswered prayers are for the best.

Overall I find the book to be an excellent reference to which I will constantly return to as I work on improving my own life of prayer.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#LearningtoPray #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.