A Review of
Prayer: Forty Days of Practice
Justin McRoberts, Scott Erickson
The new book Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson is a unique book, that doesn’t teach us how to pray or offer a theology of prayer. Rather, what this elegant little book does is to offer a series of simple, but compelling images and brief guided prayers that are paired with each image. (See examples below)
The prayer/image pairs are punctuated by seven 1-2 page narrative meditations that accompany the prayers and provide further opportunity for reflection. These meditations each come with a brief introduction to a suggested practice of prayer – e.g., exercise, intercession, etc.
What is most extraordinary about this book is its poetic simplicity, the way that – in our attention-deficit world – it grabs our eyes and our minds and begs us to pay attention, to roll the words over in our minds and to consider the images from multiple angles. I have long worked from the conviction that prayer is in essence a means to cultivate our attentiveness to the presence of God and the presence of other humans around us. At the breakneck pace of life in the twenty-first century, we need the help of others as we learn to slow down and to develop the skills we need to pay keen attention. This book is a great gift in these efforts. I have long been an advocate of poetry for similar reasons: we can’t simply rush roughshod through it and really appreciate it in any meaningful way. We have to go slow and savor the work (or on the other end of the spectrum, wrestle with it), as we seek to understand the image, scenario or story that the poet or artist is inviting us into.
Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson have produced, in this new book, a thing of beauty. Its length fits well with the season of Lent, but don’t let the fact that we are now two weeks into Lent deter you from getting your hands on this book, and spending some quality time with it. I am certain that it will be a transformative experience!
C. Christopher Smith is founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books, co-author of Slow Church, and author of the forthcoming book, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish(IVP, Summer 2016).