Jared Brock, a twenty-something author and beard enthusiast, took a year to go on a "prayer pilgrimage, for all those who, for whatever reason, can't go on on for themselves." He sets out on a year-long, globe-trotting adventure, exploring prayer and pray-ers all over the world. With good humor and a bit of spiritual insight, he chronicles his year in A Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis, and Revived His Prayer Life.
Brock's book is first of all an entertaining travelogue, second, a personal, spiritual memoir, and third, a book on prayer. If a reader were to pick up A Year of Living Prayerfully with the expectation of deep, detailed, systematic teaching on prayer, he would be sorely disappointed. Brock writes in such a way that among his funny stories of travel and the interesting people he meets, he sprinkles in things he has learned about prayer, making the lessons learned much more effective and memorable.
As the subtitle says, Brock did meet the Pope, who asked Brock to pray for him. (If Brock was a fan of Pope Francis before meeting him, he was a die-hard super fan afterwards.) He didn't get to meet Billy Graham, even after stalking him at his secluded home. . . . Much the worse for Reverend Graham. Brock has a skill for meeting folks and finding places. Well, skill and a fair amount of luck. Readers will envy the adventures and opportunities he writes about.
Well, what about prayer? I was most impressed by the fact that after galavanting around the world, he discovered that one of the most important spiritual movements in the last few centuries had its origins, in part, in his own Canadian town. It made me wonder about the natural impulse to seek the distant and exotic for inspiration, when what we are seeking might be right in our neighborhood. I can read about prayer warriors from centuries past, but I can probably meet awesome prayer warriors in my own church. I can visit the site of a famous revival on another continent, but there is probably much to learn about the history of the church in my own town.
One method of prayer Brock picked up along the way is holding someone in the light. As a Quaker lady described it to Brock, "To hold someone in the light is to picture that person in the light of God's grace. . . . We try not to say anything or add our agenda. Just by holding people in the light, God can do whatever He needs to do in their lives." To me that sounds like a beautifully perfect, God-centered means of praying for someone.
I also liked his description of prayer as "hanging out with Dad." Brock laments that most Christians view God in prayer as "a needs-and-wants fulfillment service." By contrast, he describes a teenager who comes home from school "and flops down on the couch in his dad's study." He doesn't talk about his day or ask for anything, he "just wants to sit there--to be in his dad's presence." Sometimes sitting silently in the presence of God is the best kind of prayer.
I don't think I'll be able to take a year off to explore the world and see what I can learn about prayer. But I enjoyed vicariously living Brock's year of living prayerfully through his book. He meets some remarkable people, and picked up plenty of practical wisdom about prayer to pass along to us. No matter what kind of prayer life you currently have, it will be enriched by sharing Brock's experiences.
Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!