50 Ways to Pray
50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times
by Teresa A. Blythe
Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2006
Reviewed by Karen Price
Spiritual Directors International member Teresa A. Blythe has assembled a treasure in her book, 50 Ways to Pray. Literally piecing together a catalogue of prayerful possibilities, Blythe addresses fifty forms of prayer succinctly and with a flair for invitation. The reader will complete the book, ready to experience many new ways of interacting with God.
For the spiritual director, Blythe provides a needed tool, bringing methodology together with practice and excitement. She offers information not just for information’s sake, but as an avenue to experience relationship with God. Blythe communicates the excitement of many and varying opportunities for prayer.
The reader of 50 Ways to Pray may feel like a kid in a candy store. Certainly in a candy store, one wants to try as many kinds of candy as possible, given the opportunity. There are those, to be sure, who will go into a confectioners dream place and chose the same concoction they have always had and always will have. But, there are many others who will delight in their old standby, and be willing to try a bit of everything else. Some treats they will really like, and others they won’t like at all. In between is a bundle of treats that delights to be enjoyed again and again. The individual with the satisfied sweet tooth is happy to have ventured into the candy store and discovered new delicacies that please the palate. Similarly, the reader of 50 Ways to Pray is invited to sample and determine what means of prayer will be a steady diet, and what to use as an occasional treat. A spiritual director can aid the directee in this process: “Spiritual directors, in particular, are trained to assist you in discovering where God may be leading you in these prayer experiences” (p. 14).
Blythe takes cues from the disciples in the New Testament yearning to pray. “As Jesus’ disciples begged him to teach them to pray, we too long for instruction in prayer, contemplation, meditation, and discernment—teachers and resources inviting us into a living relationship with God” (p. 11).
Nine chapters explore multiple ways to pray. Some of the prayer ideas are as old as the desert mothers and fathers, others fresh to the world today. All are legitimate ways to meet with God. Chapters include “Biblical Reflections” such as meditation on the heart’s longing or creating one’s own Psalm; “Basic Contemplative Practices” including praying with icons or praying the Jesus prayer; “Lectio Divina” with nature and music; “Life Reflections” as in the traditional Ignatian examen or a contemporary examen using art as prayer; “Discernment Processes” with Ignatian spiritual discernment and the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a tool for prayer; “Body Prayers” such as praying with beads, the labyrinth and many others. Additional chapters are “Prayers of the Imagination”; “Reflections On Media” as a spring board for communicating with God; and “Praying For Others” which includes healing prayer and prayer partnering.
The final chapter is a “Leader’s Guide” for those who would use this book for small group spiritual direction. In eleven outstanding pages, Blythe provides a tutorial of small group dynamics, offering a job description for the leader, as well as addressing room arrangement and addressing participant tears. Then, for each way to pray that is presented in the book, a suggestion is made for how to prepare for the class, how to introduce the exercise, and finally how to draw the group together after the exercise for a time of reflection.
The reader or spiritual director will complete 50 Ways to Pray with a renewed sense of adventure of the many possibilities to encounter a God of endless possibilities. Karen Knight Price lives in Davisburg, Michigan, USA, with her husband and two children. They share a love for each other, their land and animals, the joy and whimsy of life, and a passion for God.
Karen has served as United Methodist pastor for eighteen years and is currently the youth and family pastor at the Goodrich United Methodist Church in Goodrich, Michigan, USA. She shares her enthusiasm for teaching children and youth as well as preaching and celebrating life.