Sam Radford

March 26, 2021

Book Notes: “Learning to Pray” by James Martin

I shared on Instagram several weeks ago that I was reading Learning to Pray

And, in that post, I wrote about my struggles with prayer in recent years:

I spent the first three quarters of my life with an understanding of prayer that was mostly about asking God for stuff. But... that fell apart for me as a method of prayer. And I've never found a groove with prayer that’s stuck since. 

As someone who has spent most of my life in church, it was interesting to read a beginners guide to prayer. You’d think I’d know it all. And you’d be wrong!

Of course, prayer is never something you master. There are seasons, like with anything in life that has importance.

But it was refreshing to go back to the basics: What is prayer? Why pray? How do you pray? I needed the reminder.

The timing fits. We all go through the phases of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction in many areas of our lives. The spiritual life especially. The approach to prayer I’d built in my first thirty years needed dismantling. With that complete, I’m ready to establish something new again.

It won’t be the same as what it was before. It’ll be something that works for me now, based on the journey I’ve been on, and the trajectory I’m headed in.

James Martin’s book was a wonderful guide for starting this journey. It helped me envision what a renewed prayer life might look like. It was helpful too that he’s someone in his sixties. He’s been through the ups and downs of trying to live a prayerful life. The book was elevated by the wisdom only obtainable through considerable life experience.

I’m aware many of you reading this don't share my faith perspective. But, whatever your thoughts on faith, religion, or spirituality, we all grapple with change at different stages in life. And we need wise guides to walk us through the transitions between those stages. Reading Learning to Pray was my way of accessing a wise guide as I try to transition to a fresh approach to prayer in my life.

Prayer may well not be what you’re grappling with right now. But what is the area of your life where you do need to take some time to move into a new period of growth? All I can say is that this kind of change rarely happens by chance. We sometimes have to hunt down a wise guide who can help us take those first, tentative steps forward.

Are you reading anything at the moment that’s helping you transition to a new stage or phase in life? I'd love to hear from you – just hit reply or drop me a note. I read all your messages, and always try to respond.

–Sam