What I Like About “Simply Pray” by Johannes Hartl

I don’t like book reviews that assess and evaluate.  I’m not well read or intelligent enough to cast judgement on other authors.  Plus, I always assume when I read a book that there will be things that I agree with, and things I don’t.  And I learn just as much from my moments of resistance as I do my moments of resonance.  If I’m resistant to something in a book, it’s quite conceivable the problem is ME, not the book.

That being said, the thing I like mainly about Hartl’s book “Simply Pray” is Hartl.  Poet, philosopher and foodie, Johannes is the Director of  Gebetshaus – the House of Prayer in Augsburg, Germany.  Johannes is a fresh voice and perspective in the House of Prayer conversation.  He’s got waaaaaaaay more brain cells than I have (and uses them!) but his genius lies not so much in his wide breadth of understanding around all manner of topics, but in his ability to make the complex simple, accessible, easy to understand.

First of all,  the book has pictures!  Call me simple, but I’m a visual learner, so I like pictures.  What Hartl is actually doing is writing icons.  He finds an image that captures a theological concept, and through a simple drawing gives us a doorway into what he wants us to explore, understand, and easily remember at a later date.

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Hartl promises in his book twelve steps to transformation and then lays out simple, practical invitations to make more room for God in our lives.  He deals with formational practices, and with the wisdom borne of experience, shares how to overcome common obstacles to deepening your life of communion with God.

I love the chapter titles.

Nothing

The Secret

Dimension

Traffic

Why?  Again because he is able to capture a body of learning in a single memorable word.  It’s just good craftsmanship, and masterful communication.

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The final thing I enjoyed about the book is Johannes’ transparency and vulnerability.  It would have been easy to merely write a “how to” manual, but Johannes gives us glimpses into his own heart and processes, his dreams and disappointments.  We are invited to be a fellow pilgrim on the journey with him, rather than an acolyte under his tutelage.

This book is equally helpful for prayer novices or newbies, and also for those who have been cultivating prayer for a loooooong time and need a fresh perspective on how they might create space for encounter.  Now that I’ve completed it, I’m going to start passing it around to my friends and colleagues….

Luminous or Shiny?

She was a luminous soul.

It was a curious mixture of vulnerability and strength.  Her skin looked almost translucent.  Her eyes no stranger to sorrow, but also creased with joy.  She was slight, even a little fragile.  But somehow also solid.  Grounded.

 She was quiet, observant.  Attentive and present.  You could tell that she was just as aware of the Other in attendance at the table as she was the rest of us.  She didn’t speak much – she chose her moments carefully.  But when she did weigh into the conversation, her words carried heft and substance.

 I couldn’t take my eyes off her, and I hung onto every word.

Those who look to Him are radiant; 

their faces are never covered with shame.  Psalm 34:5

 This woman has been with Jesus.

 As we march towards Advent, I’m aware that my surroundings are becoming very shiny.  Lights hanging on the High Street.  Decorations in the stores.  The town is polishing itself up for Christmas.

Tolkien said in the Lord of the Rings, “All that is gold does not glitter.”  I wonder if the inverse is also true.  Is all that glitters, all that is shiny, gold?

 It’s so tempting to be shiny.  I want to polish myself up, put my best foot forward.  Make a good impression.  Possibly even impress.  My motives are good – well, mostly.  We are called to shine as children of light in a darkened generation, aren’t we?

 But am I full of light, or merely shiny?  Am I lit from within or do I merely glitter?

 Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18

  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The pathway to luminosity?  Paul would say the contemplation of God’s glory.  British poet William Blake says “We become what we behold.

What might happen if I search for God’s glory in all it’s multiple manifestations around me?  In the Scriptures and in the Chantry Woods?  In the faces and lives of those I am growing to know and to love?  What I set my heart on a quest for His beauty and when I find it stop.  Look.  Listen.  Contemplate.  Take it all in.  Let it invade the inner chambers of my heart and fill them with light.

Might I become a luminous one?

First produced in Herrnhut, Germany, the Moravian star adorns Christmas trees and homes all over the world, in particular communities wherever Moravian missionaries have been sent.  It represents the star that led those with questing hearts to find Jesus.

It is lit from within.

Lord, as we approach Advent, may my questing heart find you.  Finding you, may I gaze upon you.  As I gaze upon you, may You fill me with Your light so that I might point others to Jesus.

 

Imagination in Prayer?

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Some of you may be aware that over the last few years I’ve been training as a spiritual director.  I graduate from my program with Emmaus Formation on June 22!  Just finishing up my last papers and I thought this one might be of interest to folks.  It’s longer than a standard blog post and a bit technical, but hopefully helpful to those who are wondering if the use of imagination in prayer is helpful or not…

I’m attaching it as a pdf so all the footnotes position themselves properly…

Imagination and Symbol in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises-1

Mary

Yes Lord

I believe.

Yes Lord

I recieve

All that You have promised.

Your Spirit hovers

Over my chaos

Uncertainty and questions.

Light beams into the deep.

A gift is given.

Pregnant with Divine intention

I bear it.

I bear You.

Senses attunded

To hear it.

I hear you.

Body breathless, poised and waiting

To feel Your movement within.

Internal

Eternal Dance.

You spin like the galaxy.

I grow heavy with expectation.

The weight of Glory

Slows me.

Show me

All that You have promised.