In this solid devotional work, Daniel Wolpert, a Christian pastor, presents twelve prayer practices along with brief portraits of the historical figures most associated with them. "A prayer practice," he explains, "is just that: practice. It is taking time to learn how to listen to God. It is taking time to see the hand of God at work in our lives. We need to take this time because this listening, this seeing are difficult tasks. I once introduced a time of silent prayer at a prayer service by saying, 'Let us take some time to listen to God.' One woman who was struggling with various concerns said, 'I listen and all I hear is the fan on the ceiling.' God's voice is often very soft. Prayer practice is the art of setting aside our own individual desires to seek the desire that God has placed on our heart. It is becoming aware of the distractions of our minds and then letting them go, and as we repeat the disciplines over time, we become more skillful at seeing God in all that we do."
The first chapter deals with the general practices of solitude and silence as demonstrated by the desert fathers and mothers. He then moves on to lectio divina or sacred reading as modeled by Saint Benedict. The next five chapters cover practices that are mental in nature. They include the Jesus prayer, silent contemplative prayer, the examen, creativity, and journaling. The concluding practices designed to put us "at God's disposal" are body prayer, walking toward God, praying in nature, prayer and life in the world, and a praying community.
One of our favorite illustrations is in the chapter on creativity. Hildegard of Bingen is the historical figure here with her image of the Spirit of God as "glistening life." Wolpert writes: "One simple but beautiful example of creativity is decorating a backpack. A friend of mine who is in school carries her books in a daypack. On the outside of this pack she loves to put buttons, decals, and sew-on labels. Many express her faith; others are just beautiful. What began as a simple daypack has now become a living testimony to her prayer life and, through beauty, to the creative presence of God."
It is worthwhile to both ponder and experience all the avenues available to us for dialogue with the Holy One. Wolpert has done a fine job putting these prayer practices together with appropriate "traveling companions" from the Christian tradition. He reveals the startling richness of resources available to contemporary believers.