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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Path of Prayer
Reflections on Prayer and True Stories of How It Affects Our Lives
Penguin 10/03 Paperback $13.00
Sophy Burnham is the author of ten books including the bestseller The Book of Angels. She has completed a two-year course in spiritual direction at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, D.C. At the outset, the author admits that prayer is a vast and deep subject; she hopes that "the very rhythms of the sentences themselves, the music of the words, will sooth a hurt, caress a soul, and feed an untamed need."
For Burnham, prayer is a yearning of the heart, the irresistible urge to communicate with the Divine, a doorway to thin places, and thought concentrated and distilled. Her relaxed and informal overview of devotion is divided into three sections; "When You Are Hurting and In Need," "When Prayers Are Answered," and "The Practice of Prayer." To demonstrate her ecumenical purview, Burnham ends each chapter with a prayer from different religious traditions. The volume ends with a medley of practical prayers.
Whether discussing the four stair-steps of prayer (petition, gratitude, praise, and union) or pondering the spiritual benefits of surrender and relinquishment, Burnham proves herself to be connoisseur of devotion in all of its various forms. One of the finest passages deals with the use of affirmations as prayers. She sees these as acts of courage through which individuals seek to bring out the best that is within them. Burnham gives a few examples: "I have the ability to feel good in all circumstances." "I work with discipline and delight every day." Affirmations are built upon intentions, and "Intention is what makes a prayer alive." That is why so many of the great spiritual masters have emphasized that anything can be prayer if it is done in a spirit of wholeheartedness and ardor.
The author has read widely and she studs The Path of Prayer with many soul-stirring quotations. Here are a few examples: "Worry is like praying for your worst fears to happen," Grandfather David, a Hopi Indian has observed. Many of us have engaged in this toxic form of behavior. "Wait three years, goes a Buddhist saying, and every disaster turns into a blessing." So true. When we're going through a downpour of disappointments, everything seems lost. Only later, do we see that new possibilities have sprouted out of the wet ground. And here's a little gem from the Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer: "Life is God's novel. Let Him write it."
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