Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life, by Jane Redmont

I originally found Jane Redmont's blog, Acts of Hope, through PeaceBang's. I soon became a regular reader. When I learned that she had a second edition of this book coming out, I knew I had to get it.

At the end of last year, a friend of mine gave me a book called Writing as a Way of Healing. One of Jane Redmont's essays was referenced in there, an essay about praying during a time of depression.

Well, that sealed the deal for me. I bought it as soon as I could.

I felt it was very fitting for me to read this right now, given my current mental state. Sure enough, one of the chapters is titled, "From Where Will My Help Come? Praying During Depression." Even though it was the eleventh chapter in the book, it was the first one I read. In this chapter, Redmont describes a mental and emotional breakdown she suffered in 1993, which led to a brief hospitalization. She writes about how the prayers of other people helped get her through this difficult period. She adds that her reading of the Psalms, particularly Psalm 121, helped her through her depression. But she concludes that her best form of prayer during these months was with her body, particularly through the practice of yoga.

Redmont recognizes, though, that different people pray differently. What works for one person may not work for another. At the end of each chapter, she gives examples of different types of poems, chants, psalms, and other brief readings to guide the reader in different forms of prayer. At the end of the chapter on depression, Redmont offers a brief written exercise to help one articulate what they are trying to pray for as they heal.

Redmont covers all of the issues that most people experience when it comes to prayer. For example, she has chapters on praying with anger, petition prayers, and praying with the body. She follows a very logical sequence with her chapters, beginning with the definition of prayer in chapter one and ending with social justice prayer in the final section. She writes about praying with icons, praying with writing, and praying with song. For those who are seeking to enrich their spiritual practice, this book is a great aid for them.

One of the nicest things about this book is that each chapter can stand alone. I suggest reading the whole book through first, then going back and re-reading your favorite chapters. I'm particularly concentrating right now on the chapters dealing with depression, troubles, and thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for, but I also need to ask for some spiritual help at this time.

Redmont interviewed many people for this book, and she quotes them extensively throughout the text. I'm glad she did this, because it shows the different ways that different people use prayer throughout their lives.

I've always been a spiritual person, but I will admit that my prayers have not been...well, thoughtful or grounded. Like many people, I always prayed for "stuff", or bargained with God--or whoever may be up there. For example, consider a typical prayer in high school:

"Dear God, please make me get an A on the science test, and please let Tim ask me out!"

In college:

"Dear God, please make me get an A on the history exam, and please convince Ted to dump Mary so he can ask me out!"


"Dear God, please don't make this depression last too much longer."

As a kid, Mama Cat taught me to say the "Our Father" and "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" before I went to bed. I always ended these prayers by saying "God Bless Mommy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa, my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins. Thank you for this day, God. Amen."

I don't remember when I stopped this bedtime routine.

But I need to have prayer back in my life again.

With this book, I think I can manage to pray once again, but this time, with a little more meaning.

This is the latest update in my 100+ Reading Challenge, my Read Your Own Books Challenge, my A to Z Challenge, and my Dewey Decimal Challenge. Click on the buttons in the sidebar for all of the latest updates!


Improbable Joe said...

Even though I'm convinced that prayer is nothing more or less than talking to yourself, I'm not convinced that talking to yourself is necessarily a bad thing. I know for a fact that telling yourself positive things absolutely has a positive effect on your life. However you want to describe it, your personal expression of positive emotions is probably required if you want to make good changes in your life and emotional well-being.

Grand Pooba said...

I used to have a little prayer I'd say before I'd go to bed every night too. I can't remember the last time I've prayed either and I too used to be a spiritual person. This book sounds like a good start!

Jenners said...

Sounds like a lovely book... and anything that helps someone in a time of trouble is worth reading. Keep on taking care of yourself. And I agree with you -- sometimes the simple prayers of childhood should be dusted off and used again. Be well, my friend.

Sarah said...

My library has it! I put it on hold. Sounds like an awesome book.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I love this post Bookkitten and I thank you so very much for brightening my your post always do :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Anonymous said...

I hope that the book helps you exactly as you're needing it to.

septembermom said...

Thank you for this thoughtful review. Prayer can enhance your life in so many ways. I want to return to a prayerful way of life. Maybe this book will lead the way for me.

Grand Pooba said...

I haven't prayed in a long time...maybe I should start now.

Jane R said...

Thank you, Bookkitten! I'm so glad you liked the book.

Jane (Redmont)