Maybe the past year of pandemic and a reckoning over racial injustice have readers turning to lament. Maybe polarizing politics have them feeling imprecatory. But several new books about prayer from popular Christian authors have landed on bookshelves in the past month — and they seem to be resonating with readers.
“A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal,” edited by progressive Christian author Sarah Bessey, made bestseller lists last week in both the United States and Canada.
Host Stephen Colbert was quick to tie the topic of prayer to the pandemic, asking Martin, the unofficial chaplain of Colbert Nation, for suggestions on different ways people can pray, even as they may not be able to participate in person in other religious activities.
“I know that so many people in COVID right now — many people are turning to their faith, and it’s very frustrating for them because of the limitations of social distancing. People don’t feel comfortable going to church,” Colbert said.
I certainly don’t, and haven’t gone in person in over a year now. I’ve become a regular participant of virch (virtual church) services via Zoom, though, and am currently part of a nightly Lenten Bible study.
Still, prayer has been essential to survival in this quarantined, COVID-world. More from the story:
The Jesuit priest defines prayer as “conscious conversation with God.”
In “Learning to Pray,” Martin said he wanted to make prayer accessible to everyone, to explain what happens when one closes his or her eyes and bows his or her head. So he wrote the book as a “carry-along spiritual director for people” to answer the same questions he has heard over and over again for the past two decades.
Prayer can bring a sense of calm, of hope, of peace, of God’s presence — a “great gift” in the midst of a troubling time, he said. It can help one to unburden him- or herself of worries and concerns or to feel solidarity with others, knowing at any moment people all around the world are praying, too.
For Martin, there is no “right way” to pray — prayer can look like a number of different things, from viewing nature as an image of God to practices like Lectio Divina or Ignatian contemplation. Prayer practices can look different for each person, not only year to year, but also day to day, he said.
“If it brings you into an encounter with God, it’s a good prayer,” Martin said.
Read the rest of the story which looks at two more books on prayer, including Sarah Bessey’s, here.