"The longer we pray, the more we realize prayer is bigger than we are, more expansive and deeper. When we least expect it, our prayer brings us into further clarity about who we are and how we are to be with God and the world. These experiences encourage us to lessen our stronghold on wanting to control, to know and have proof. Unexpected graced moments in prayer restore our confidence in the process and help us trust our intention to become more loving. These little glimpses encourage us to give ourselves to what we believe to be of most value. We leave the finished product of prayer to the One who knows the longings of our heart," writes Joyce Rupp, the author of many books including The Circle of Life and Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camina. In this volume in the Orbis Book Series "Catholic Spirituality for Adults," she explores the practice of prayer. Rupp likes the definition by Kenneth Leech: "To pray is to enter into a relationship with God and to have that relationship make a difference in my life."
This definition serves as an umbrella for the following methods of praying: reciting the psalms alone or with others, using repetition of a word or phrase in centering meditation, walking meditatively, savoring the beauty of the natural world, repeating the written prayers of others, journaling, sitting in solitude and contemplation, praying the rosary, celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy or other sacraments, reading spiritual books, or calling upon God in times of fear and panic.
This handy paperback is divided into chapters on:
• Entering into a Relationship • The Tidal Patterns of Prayer • Keeping the Vigil of Mystery • Turning Prayer Inside Out • A Kernel of Corn and a Little Teapot
Rupp proves to be a wise and well-read guide through the path of prayer. For example, she alludes to a quip by theologian Sandra Schneider who wants Christians to move beyond the traditional way of addressing God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: "God is more than two men and a bird." She includes a thought-provoking teaching story regarding surrender in prayer by James Finley in Merton's Palace of Nowhere where Merton compares letting go to that of a green apple on a tree: "The apple does not get red, ripe, and juicy by squirming, pushing, and worrying, or by insisting that the sun shine upon it. No, the apple waits attentively, while it remains open to receive the juice from the root sending nutrients up through the tree, waits while the warmth of the sun's radiance transforms it. Eventually, the green apple grows into a delicious fruit ready for harvest."
We also liked Marc Ian Barasch's practice of treating distractions like a doorman at a hotel. "The doorman lets people in but does not follow them down the hall, and when the doorman lets people out he does not follow them down the street." That is a handy practice use when random thoughts take your focus away from prayer and the presence of God. A final gem is from Dorothee Soelle, who was irritated by always being asked "Do you believe in God?" when the only really important question is quite different: "Do you live out God?"