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Posted January 23, 2014

Book: Prayer: Our Deepest Longing
Author: Ronald Rolheiser
Franciscan Media. Cincinnati, OH. 2014. Pp. 69

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Prayer: Our Deepest Longing looks at the issues facing people of faith in today's culture, and offers a way of more effectively dealing with them by seeking out opportunities for prayer. With simple, down-to-earth language, Rolheiser illustrates the importance of prayer and offers techniques on how to pray, using examples from everyday life, Scripture, and contemporary writers. He delves into the places that we fear to go with our issues about prayer, encouraging us with gentle kindness and words of hope and inspiration.

This is a book for all manner of believer, whether your faith is solidly rooted in Catholicism, wavering between the Christianity of childhood and non-participatory faith as an adult, or just not sure not sure what you believe --- or if you believe at all. It addresses topics that permeate our culture, such as narcissism, pragmatism, efficiency, and self-gratification, and that work against a healthy spiritual life. Finally, the book takes us to a place of contact and comfort, in relationship not only with God but with our true self as well.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Struggling in Prayer

Too Busy to Bow Down

We are not, by choice or ideology, a culture set against solitude, interiority, and prayer. Nor are we, in my opinion, more malicious, pagan, or afraid of interiority than past ages. Where we differ from the past is not so much in badness as in busyness. Most days, we don't pray simply because we don't quite get around to it.

Perhaps the best metaphor to describe our hurried and distracted lives is that of a car wash. When you pull up to a car wash, you are instructed to leave your motor running, to take your hands off the steering wheel, and to keep your foot off the brake. The idea is that the machine itself will suck you through.

For most of us, that's just what our typical day does to us --- it sucks us through. We have smartphones and radios that stimulate us before we are fully awake. Many of us are texting friends, checking Facebook and emails, watching the news, or listening to music or talk radio before we even shower or eat breakfast. The drive to work follows the same pattern: simulated and preoccupied, we listen to the radio, talk on our cell phones, and plan the day's agenda. We return home to television, conversation, activities, and preoccupations of all kinds.

Eventually, we go to bed, where perhaps we read or a bit more TV. Finally, we fall asleep. When, in all of this, did we take time to think, to pray, to wonder, to be restful, to be grateful for life, for love, for health, for God? The day just sucked us through.

Moreover, prayer is not easy because we are greedy for experience. The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen put this well: "I want to pary," he once said, "but I also don't want to miss out on anything --- television movies, socializing with friends, drinking in the world." Because we don't want to miss out on any experience, prayer is truly a discipline. When we sit or kneel in prayer, our natural craving for experience feels starved and begins to protest.

Ironically, most of us crave solitude. As our lives grow more pressured, as we grow more tired, and as we begin to talk more about burnout, we fantasize about solitude. We imagine it as a peaceful quiet place, where we are walking by a lake, watching a sunset, or smoking a pipe in a rocker by the fireplace. But even here, many times we make solitude yet another activity, something to do.

Solitude, however, is a form of awareness. It's a way of being present and perceptive within all of life. It's having a dimension of reflectiveness in our daily lives that brings with it a sense of gratitude, appreciation, peacefulness, enjoyment, and prayer. It's the sense within ordinary life, that life is precious, sacred and enough.

How do we foster solitude? How do we get a handle on life so it doesn't just suck us through? How do we begin to lay a foundation for prayer in our lives?

The first step is to "put out into the deep" by remaining quietly in God's presence in solitude, in silence, in prayer. If it is your first time doing this, set aside fifteen minutes for prayer. In time, we might be able to manage thirty minutes.

Remember: Your heart is made to rest in God. If Saint Augustine is right, and he is, then you can count on your restlessness to lead you into deeper prayer --- the kind of prayer that leads to profound transformation, the kind of prayer that will not leave you empty-handed.

Table of Contents:

Struggling in prayer

Too busy to bow down
Struggling with boredom
False notions of prayer
False feelings in prayer
False expectations in prayer
Our shame and nakedness
A conspiracy against interiority

Hearing God's voice in prayer

The voice of the good shepherd
God's acceptance and delight
God's unconditional love
Safely in God's hands
"Lord teach us to pray"
Searching for solitude

Understanding priestly prayer

A symphony of prayer
The Divine Office
Our need to celebrate
Good liturgy: the role of the celebrant
Good liturgy: our role

Practicing affective prayer

The aim of affective prayer
Being bold in prayer
Prayer as surrender
Contemplative prayer
Dogged fidelity
The domestic monastery

Growing to maturity in prayer

Patience with God
The sustain power of ritual
Facing our demons
Overcoming anger
The dangers of despair
Wrestling with God
Love through locked doors
God, our real mother

Listening to God's heartbeat