Book Review: A Guidebook to Prayer
Author: MaryKate Morse
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
I haven’t stopped smiling since I received this book. Every time I open its pages, my face breaks into smiles and my heart begins to warm.
I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church; while I might not be as well traveled as some, I do know that many Christians struggle with prayer. It’s not just the act of praying itself that is difficult for people, but the concept alone of prayer can be a mind-bender. This is why my heart warms as I engage MaryKate Morse’s Guidebook to Prayer. I believe one of the foundational principles for the book can be found in a statement she quotes from Richard Foster defining prayer; “Prayer is nothing more than an ongoing and growing love relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” How simple and how beautiful is that? A second founding principle is framed in a handful of questions found in her introduction. Morse presents the following questions to assist the reader with consideration of the relational aspects of their prayer life. She writes; “Rather than asking ourselves, ‘Am I praying each day?’ we should ask ourselves, ‘Am I in a love relationship with God today? Am I living like Jesus today? Do I smell the sweet breath of the Spirit today?'” What a wonderful framework for helping one another to walk with and relate to God!
Rather than simply list a bunch of prayer exercises, Morse has chosen to arrange these prayer encounters in a way that expresses deference to the Triune nature of God. There are three parts or sections to the book with prayer exercises modeled to explore and encounter God in the persons of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Examples of these “approaches to prayer” in their respective sections follow: Part One-God the Father, (1) Community Prayer (2) Creative Prayer (3) Work Prayer (4) Contemplative-Rest Prayer (5) Prayer of Confession (6) Blessing Prayer (7) Worship Prayer. Part Two-God the Son, (8) Daily Reflection Prayer—The Examen (9) The Lord’s Prayer (10) The Servant Prayer (11) Simplicity Prayer (12) Prayer in Play (13) Scripture Prayer—Lectio Divina (14) Relinquishment Prayer (15) Forgiveness Prayer (16) Sacrament Prayer. Part Three-God the Holy Spirit (17) Prayer Language—Tongues (18) Conversational Prayer (19) Breath Prayer (20) Healing Prayer (21) Meditative Prayer (22) Discernment Prayer (23) Watch Prayer (24) Rejoice Prayer. This list clearly expresses a very diverse pathway to meeting with God, but the list is not definitive. As MaryKate Morse writes in her introduction, “This guidebook introduces many ways for Christians to pray. It is not a definitive guidebook. There are still other ways to pray.” This Guidebook to Prayer is a starting point…and what a wonderful starting point it is!
Another very helpful structure Morse has included in her book is practical examples for approaching these individual encounters. Each chapter (prayer exercise) features guided suggestions for engaging the style of prayer in the context of an individual approach, partner, or group experience. Morse has thoughtfully included personal testimonials she has collected from people she has met and instructed during her years of retreat guiding and spiritual direction. Also, at the end of each chapter is a brief list of suggested reading for more in depth study in the particular prayer discipline that has been shared.
This really is a great little book. I have already recommended it for our prayer ministry in the church that I serve and attend. We will be using this guidebook as a resource tool for introducing our church family to a broader understanding of prayer and relating with the Godhead. As shared on the back cover, this guidebook is, “A treasure trove of both resources and encouragement, you will find this book to be an indispensable guide to your life of prayer.” I say, “Absolutely!” Thank you, MaryKate Morse and thank you InterVarsity Press for helping to make prayer “less hard.”