Praying As Jesus Prayed
The United Methodist bishop of Iowa invited people in the state to tell stories about the importance to them of the Lord's Prayer. A former Trappist monk, now not specifically tied to any religion, found new meaning in the familiar Christian prayer as he entered "the wisdom years." Both explorations have resulted in new books aimed at different audiences.
"With Becoming Jesus' Prayer: Transforming Your Life Through the Lord's Prayer" (Pilgrim Press, Mar.), Bishop Gregory V. Palmer and co-authors Cindy M. McCalmont and Brian K. Milford, who are Methodist ministers in Iowa, used collected stories to write a book they hope will make the prayer dynamic and alive to Christians of all stripes.
"It's phenomenal to think about all the people who have said these words and the cohesiveness that it creates," said McCalmont, minister of spiritual formation and pastoral care at Collegiate United Methodist Church/Wesley Foundation in Ames, Iowa.
"It's so familiar and easily made commonplace that we want people to feel the power of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. And I think that only comes from really studying and talking about it and telling stories," McCalmont said.
John Sack's "Yearning for the Father: The Lord's Prayer and the Mystic Journey" (Hohm Press, May) grew out of a spiritual journey that began about seven years ago, when he turned 60. "I was doing a lot of reading, studying. I had a journal going. At some point I thought I had accumulated a lot of information that might be good for other people too," said Sack, who lives in southern Oregon and wrote the novel "The Franciscan Conspiracy" (Riverwood Books, 2005).
Sack studied as a young man under Thomas Merton in Kentucky, and later spent time in a Hindu ashram in India. He views the Lord's Prayer as "a kind of a road map for the whole spiritual journey," useful for anyone. "Even though I'm writing about the preeminently Christian prayer, I try to bring in a lot of other mystical traditions as well," Sack said. Hohm is aiming the book at individuals interested in contemplative prayer and at contemplative prayer groups, particularly those with Catholic Church connections.
Another book looks at a meditative prayer that invokes the power of Jesus's name. "On the Prayer of Jesus," published this month by Ibis and distributed by Red Wheel Weiser, is based on the 19th-century Russian Orthodox Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov's translated writings for fellow priests. The book focuses on the ancient words interpreted in English as "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner."
"It's a reaction to the fundamentalism that's going on. I think it's important to get back to Jesus' message," said Valerie Cooper, managing editor at Ibis parent Nicolas-Hays Inc. "We're trying to reach people who are practicing Christianity and want to find a method they can practice on their own to reach gnosis, to have an experience with God."