How to Talk to God About Anything
By Rick Hamlin
Guideposts, New York, 2013
The promotional material for this new book asks, "A richer prayer life. A stronger connection to God. A more vibrant faith. Deep in our soul, every Christian longs for these, but how do we get there when our attempts at prayer seem so frustrating and so flawed?"
Guideposts Magazine editor Rick Hamlin takes on our prayer life in his down-to-earth and very readable 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. He begins by telling the reader,
To try to pray is to pray. You can't fail at it. Nobody can. Open your heart, open your mouth, say something, say nothing. Shout if you must. Raise your hands, clasp them in your lap. Sing if you please. You can start with a "Dear Lord" and end with an "Amen," or you can dive right in. You can close your eyes, get on your knees, use whatever language you like or no language at all. You can pray when you're walking, running, driving to work, setting the table for dinner, lying in bed before you turn the light out.
From there Hamlin goes on to guide the new or seasoned person of prayer through 10 prayers: at mealtime, as conversation, for others, the Lord's Prayer, for forgiveness, through a crisis, in song, to focus thoughts, and in thanksgiving. Each of these chapters includes numerous, and often candid, examples from his own life and those of people he has come across in his magazine writing.
I was preparing this review on Monday, April 15, 2013, surrounded by broadcast and social media coverage of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It was poignant to read Hamlin's words in his chapter on praying through a crisis, and his reflections on prayer during the September 11 attacks and the Virginia Tech shootings. He says:
At times of crisis anger, fear and shock hit you hard. You don't think you can even move forward. You're trapped, numbed. You cry out to God, "Nooooooo!" It seems a futile outburst, but that's all you could possibly say. And it's the prayer that keeps you connected.
The Apostle Paul tells us, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NRSV). Many Christians find it difficult to pray without ceasing - people have told me how hard it is to get into a routine of prayer, and others have become convinced that somehow they aren't praying "properly." This inspiring book will be valuable in deepening and enriching prayer lives.