Despite the subtitle, this is not so much a how-to book as it is “inspirational” prose, showing readers how others have prayed. And it’s inspirational writing at its best. Rick Hamlin, executive editor of Guideposts magazine, is a seasoned writer who knows how to draw the most out of a story. Here he illustrates the use of 10 types of prayers, relying on his own life experience, interspersed with stories of co-workers and people featured in the magazine over the past 30 years.
Hamlin’s first chapter, “Prayer at Mealtime,” is heavily autobiographical; he describes the best scenes of his childhood and his father’s comprehensive table prayers --- like my father’s in their blessing of the hands that prepared the food. Here we feel like we get to know and like Hamlin and trust him as we turn the page. In his introduction he writes, “A good read makes me want to talk to the author.” Yes, I wanted to sit down for lunch with Rick Hamlin. But even here, he draws the reader to a higher plane: “I would feel like I really accomplished something” if readers instead wanted to talk to “our Maker.”
"Despite the subtitle, this is not so much a how-to book as it is “inspirational” prose, showing readers how others have prayed. And it’s inspirational writing at its best."
Later chapters include pieces of Hamlin’s adventures in prayer --- chatting with God, praying for others, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, etc. ---but he more liberally turns to the experience of others. Some names are recognizable: Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame), Carol Burnett, Deborah Norville and Robin Roberts. Some stories of lesser knowns simply struck Hamlin for their insight and power. His writing shines in his finessed transitions that weave one illustrative story to the next and provide deeper spiritual content.
Back to Hamlin’s own story. He has had open-heart surgery and watched a young son suffer (in hospital-bed traction for a month). In a chapter on a prayer for forgiveness, he reveals that his relationship with his father was more complicated than one might have thought when reading chapter one. Hamlin’s lifelong interest in music provides a solid base to an invigorating chapter titled “Sing Your Prayer.”
His final two chapters, “Pray in Thanksgiving at All Times” and “Pray Yes,” are particularly good reminders of the power of prayer in relation to our spiritual and emotional health. When recovering from his open-heart surgery, Hamlin, generally an optimist, felt overcome by a deep depression. It seems that his conscious decision to write one --- and eventually 75 --- thank-you notes to well wishers drew his spirit up from the depths. And the thank-yous to fellow travelers reflected his gratitude to God for sending them. “Be thankful in all things,” he says, “Write them down. Even if you don’t feel grateful, even if you can’t pray. What you write will be your prayer.”
This is a book I want to pass along to others.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on May 17, 2013