Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

I’ve read so many books on prayer, I almost skipped this one.  I’m glad I didn’t.  This is truly one of the best guides on the prayer life that I’ve seen.  Don’t miss it!

James Martin, a Jesuit priest covers many different ways to pray, just as I would have expected.  There are chapters on Ignatian contemplation, lectio divina, centering prayer, the daily examen, rote prayers, petitionary prayers and more.  He does a good job of clearly explaining all of these techniques.  He is quick to say there is no “right” way to pray, and different things work for different people;  however, he encourages Christians to get out of their comfort zones and try something new.

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by [James Martin]

In addition, Martin broaches a number of topics that are less usual in a prayer guide.  There is a chapter on “praying without knowing it” which contains nine types of prayer you may be using, but not even considering prayer:  things like feeling compassion, thinking about something that inspires you, wondering whether God approves of you or about the meaning of your life.  Another chapter addresses what happens when you pray:  the emotions, insights, memories, desires, images and feelings that may arise during prayer.  There are sections about why we should pray, obstacles to prayer, and how prayer should lead to action and change.  He closes with other disciplines such as retreats, spiritual direction and journaling that are related to prayer.  A list of additional resources on a variety of the topics covered is included.

Most of us feel guilty about our prayer life, and there is always room for improvement.  However, this book will expand your definition of prayer, and give you a host of ideas to try.  It also explains that spiritual life, like every part of life, has ups and downs. Sometimes feeling dry, distracted or even depressed as we pray is not unusual.  Every period of prayer will not yield mystic experiences or deep insights.  The key is to treasure the special moments and simply to persevere in God’s presence.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I loved it!

For more on prayer see:

Fanning the Flame #8 — Prayer Vision

Prayer Works

The Prayer that Never Fails