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.
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.
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.
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….