Book Review: "A Book of Prayers"
Having taught on prayer and led people who have hidden fears about the act of prayer, I can't tell you how many times I've turned to the direction of having people use pre-written prayers.
Whether they pray portions of the Psalms or poetry from a book like Guerrillas of Grace, there is something good about using a prayer that is in someone else's words and making it your own.
What we can't say, others often say better.
When I received Arthur A.R. Nelson's little book A Book of Prayers in the mail, I'm embarrassed to say I set it aside and didn't look at it again until I was moving my bookshelves around to make room for new additions.
Nelson states the point of his book is to be a portable source of prayers when words are not enough and after reading the first three prayers you are immediately drawn in by how poetically relevant his words are for present situations. The book is divided into 12 sections:
-Praying the Inner Life -Prayers for Times of Grief -Prayers for Times of Difficulty -Prayers for Ongoing Illness -Prayers for Healing -Prayers for a Marriage -Prayers for Parents & Children -Prayers for Celebrations -Prayers for Home and Church -Prayer for the Larger World -Praying for the Year's Seasons -Praying the Scriptures
By simply reading the section headings, you can see the goodness of this book already. It is possible for someone to get a full training in prayer for real-life circumstances by just investing a day or so in each chapter. Add to that the fact that Nelson writes prayers for situations where words are most likely to leave us. Prayers such as "For One Being Bullied" or "For The One Who Has Been Raped" or "For Parents Placing a Child For Adoption" lead us into conversations and understandings that we may not have had before. Growth is immanent.
Nelson uses a pastor's intention and a poets pen as he writes prayers such as "For An Unclenched Moment":
Into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies
of shivering anxieties,
of dead certainties... (p. 18)
I would recommend Nelson's book to anyone struggling with what to pray in certain ministry situations or someone dealing with family or community scenarios that are beyond the words you have at hand to pray for. Even if you aren't directly addressing these issues in life and ministry, the growth that comes from learning to pray for unthinkable needs is a graceful and rich experience indeed.