If you can overlook the frou-frou hot pink cover of A BUSY WOMAN'S GUIDE TO PRAYER, you might be pleasantly surprised. Although author Cheri Fuller keeps the tone light, and her illustrations definitely reflect the suburban woman, her concrete ideas for ways to incorporate prayer into a busy life (and what woman thinks she's not busy?) are practical and sound.
The disease we're afflicted with is "hurried sickness," and Fuller includes a little too much detail about her own busy schedule (as if to convince us that she's been there, done that). But living life in the fast lane doesn't mean you can't pray. Prayer, she says, is integration, not separation; it isn't limited to a slot in your schedule. "It's living in the Lord's presence and being open to him." In other words, don't feel that you have to have a "prayer time" to pray. Begin by saying short prayers as you can, wherever you are, whenever you think of it.
The ideas are simple and easily practiced. Let a short prayer be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Pray while you exercise. (Uh, exercise? Guess I should be doing that!) Some, such as using the acronym "B-L-E-S-S" (remember to pray for body, labor, emotional, social, and spiritual needs) may feel overly-cutesy, although the idea itself is a sound one. (Ditto for the idea of praying for a loved one when you are on a road trip and spot the same color and model car they drive. Nash Rambler? Pray for Grandma.). But, at 44 years old, any ideas that help me remember something are welcome.
Other ideas on prayer include trying different postures, praying scripture, and how to pray with someone on the spot when they tell you their need. I particularly liked the "pocket prayers" or short breath prayers that can be used in small odds and ends of available time. "Thy patience, Lord." "Lord, change me." "Thy quietness, Lord."
Admirably, although the bulk of the book is concerned with us talking to God, Fuller devotes some pages to the other part of prayer that is often neglected: listening to God. This won't happen, she points out, unless we make space for it. If you're new to the idea of listening, start small, she says, just five minutes. Take a listening walk. Pause on your back porch and admire creation, and what God says through it. Make your drive to work a time to listen to God.
Another chapter on praying for our enemies is thought-provoking and convicting. "Having a clean slate when we come to God in prayer is vital," she writes, adding that when we forgive those who have wronged us, "We'll be freer emotionally, healthier physically, and more able to experience the joy of Jesus."
Readers may quibble with the fact that Fuller seems to enable the hurried life by suggesting we adjust our prayer lives to it, rather than assessing just why we are so busy and making lifestyle changes that are more conducive to prayer. However, despite her own emphasis on how busy she is, many of Fuller's ideas laudably promote a slowed-down lifestyle. Hopefully, as readers become more involved with prayer, the slower pace will be a natural outflow.
I appreciated how Fuller takes care to explain any Christianese (such as the phrase "Mary heart with a Martha Schedule") so that new Christians will understand. She quotes widely from a diverse array of classic writers on prayer, including Henri Nouwen, R.A. Torrey, Oswald Chambers and Richard Foster. Those new to prayer hopefully will be prompted to dig more deeply into Fuller's source material.
Questions for discussion or journaling at the end of each chapter make A BUSY WOMAN'S GUIDE TO PRAYER a good choice for small groups, new Christian women's Bible studies, or personal devotion and journaling time.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011