What I read in April 2019 (Part 1)

The first two books I finished reading in April are reviewed here.

Sacristy Press sent me Living Prayer: Learning to Pray in Daily Life by John Davey as a Twitter giveaway. This is a slim volume. The expression ‘it does what it says on the tin’ comes to mind for this book. It took me a few weeks to work my way through it slowly. It is the sort of book to keep at the side of one’s bed and pick up from time to time. It is a good introduction to prayer.

Having recently read Evelyn Underhill’s Prayer Book with its copious superscripts and notes, the plain text including Psalms without verse numbers was a complete contrast. I failed to find any information about the author anywhere in the book or its cover, beyond what he revealed in the preface. What seems important is the content of the book rather than the person writing it. In this age of celebrity that is counter-cultural. So is Christianity.

One prayer made me wonder whether the author was a Roman Catholic. (The prayers from Common Worship suggest he is an Anglican.) I do not know any other Protestants, who address Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ in their prayers. However, I do know some, who would object to the book for the sake of a single prayer. Personally, I’d thank God for Mary’s obedience rather than address her directly. (I have no formal qualifications in theology.)

New Life: Reflections for Lent edited by Amy Robinson and Wendy H. Jones

This book was published shortly before Lent 2018, but I failed to obtain a copy until later. I bought it at a writers’ conference. The book is the first one published by the Association of Christian Writers (ACW), whose members contributed the daily readings. It consists of a Bible reference for each day of Lent (marked in a way that does not tie the book to a particular year) followed by a piece of writing inspired by the passage from scripture. There are introductions to each week’s readings. The writing is varied and imaginative. The book is available from Amazon. I read it during Lent 2019, but raced ahead at the end as I was not prepared to carry it on a journey and wanted to finish it by Easter.

I took the book to the prayer group twice to share some of the writing with the ladies there. They were very favourably impressed with the pieces I read out.

Although it is a Lent book, in the introduction Angela Hobday aka Annie Try (the chairman of ACW) points out that there is enough material to mull over during the entire year. There is a foreword by Adrian Plass, the president of ACW.

It is book to revisit.

(I reviewed the second book from ACW here.)

6

Prayer strands

Do you pray?

When I think about prayer I mean praying to the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Prayer is so easy a child can do it, but it can also be difficult. It can be difficult to be honest. It can be difficult to find time. It can be difficult to listen in case God is speaking or showing us a picture.

I recently had a half formed idea about the strength of groups of people praying. Jesus said, Where two or three are gathered in my name…

I wondered about a sort of plant rising from people towards God. We are supposed to be branches in his Vine – a sort of network. I thought about the strength of intertwined creepers. There is also reference in the Bible to a three-stranded cord.

Then I saw a picture on Twitter of wisteria in Kew Gardens. I have permission from Isabel Hardman to share it here.

Wisteria

Wisteria

I am not claiming to understand what happens when we pray. God wants us to treat him as our Heavenly Father and talk to him. We should expect to hear from him too.

Perhaps our prayers have substance, becoming a strong interwoven fabric or a tangle of creepers. Perhaps in praying for a person our prayers build up a barrier against evil. Prayer is something of a mystery. Does this picture resonate in any way with your experience? Can you shed any light on these tentative ideas?

 

6

B is for Blessed

This April on Sue’s Trifles the theme is the names of God.  There may be more than one name for some of the letters.  There may be others I have omitted.  I hope that by going through the alphabet together we may learn more about the nature of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Letter A

The names or descriptions of God beginning with B, which first came into my mind were Blessed and blessing, Bountiful and the Bread of life.  These are mostly rather specialised words and phrases.

Many people use the expression Bless, or sign something they have written with blessings.  “Bless you”, often follows a sneeze.

God’s blessing is worth receiving.  In his generosity (being bountiful) He is willing to pour out blessings on people.  He desires that people should bless Him.

Bread of Life is a description Jesus gave himself.  John 6:48

The final name I remembered for this letter is Brother.

This is the easiest of these ideas, but in some ways the most difficult.  People belong to families.  Male siblings are brothers.  What is amazing is that God (in the person of his Son) could be our Brother.  Matthew 25:40, Romans 8:29 and other passages of the New Testament use this idea.  We cannot be equal with God, but he came down to earth to be our Brother.

Here is a well-known prayer, which addresses Jesus as our Brother.

The prayer of St Richard of Chichester

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly
and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.

Further reading:

Holy Bible (If you do not possess one there are online resources and free translations for Kindle.)

Paradoxology

How can it be all right when everything is all wrong?

Forgetful Heart by Lucy Mills, who is taking part in the A to Z Challenge.