"We pick up prayer books when we realize that we need something to stimulate our devotion to God. For many of us, prayer is our lifeboat, but we still find ourselves treading water from time to time. The unique vision and spiritual depth of St. Clare's prayers and prayer life will open for you new opportunities and paths for knowing God," writes Jon M. Sweeney, author of The St. Francis Prayer Book. Clare ran away from her comfortable home when she was just 18 to join the community around St. Francis of Assisi. She set up a cloistered life with a small group of sisters and then spent the next four decades in prayer and contemplation. Sweeney sees her rich devotional life as a valuable contribution to Franciscan spirituality: "She was a deep, ready source of wisdom a well to Francis's river."
St. Clare was the first woman to write a Rule for religious life and as the years went by she became known for her intercessory prayers. Not much is known about her style of praying, though Sweeney has discovered some details: she often prayed alone late at night; she cried often while praying; and she practiced visual meditation. He notes:
"It is easy to imagine Clare visualizing herself with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, determined to stay awake and pray with him, but also crying beside him. She easily would have understood the poignant African-American spiritual 'Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?' "
Sweeney concludes that St. Clare was a down-to-earth mystic who models for us a devotional life that honors the Trinity and activates within us a yearning to love and serve others.
To help us tune into the guidance and depth of St. Clare's prayer life, Sweeney includes in this prayer book sections on praying alongside her, seven themes for seven days (embracing Christ, purity, walking the path of conversion, listening with the heart, adoring Christ, true discipleship and redefining family), the Daily Office for Sunday through Saturday, occasional prayers of St. Clare, other prayers, and some additional pieces including a little play about her by Laurence Housman.