PRAYER POWER: How to Pray When You Think You Can’t
Look at the cover of this book and it’s hard to identify the title, because it’s overshadowed by the descriptive subtitle “How to Pray When You Think You Can’t.” Turn to the table of contents and you discover a listing of potential situations in which you might feel distant from God: when you’re ill, facing emotional problems, overwhelmed with care-giving responsibilities, grieving, doubting, feeling angry and fearful, feeling threatened, sensing failure, needing trust. So this is a book to have on hand and dip into at different seasons of life. And yet there are basic prayer pointers throughout to benefit someone who reads straight through, start to finish.
Marci Alborghetti’s engaging style combines Scripture and biblical examples, personal anecdotes and teaching points. On two counts she brings to the table a Catholic perspective. First, she values written or memorized and repeated --- as well as spontaneous --- prayers. PRAYER POWER delightfully includes many original sample or starter prayers, gently suggested: try this to get unstuck. For future reference I have tagged a page of gospel prayers --- people’s requests for or responses to Jesus’s physical or spiritual healing. Alborghetti suggests, for example, “Pray with the Samaritan woman, who, when Jesus tells her about living water, says, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty’ (John 4:15).” Every chapter ends with four standardized sections that include prayers or Scriptures: Thanksgiving, Psalm-as-Prayer, Suggested Closing Prayer and Bible Reference.
Second, Alborghetti sees that life itself can be a prayer; physical acts presented to God can serve as prayer when words seem to fail us. “Prayer is not always a matter of words; prayer, in its purest form is often action. From the prophets to the apostles, those closest to God proved their devotion more through action than words.” After quoting a number of New Testament passages, she explains: “How can I know if an action or activity is a form of prayer? If it’s done with God in my heart and mind; if it’s done with a yearning to be close to God or to stay close to Him; if it’s done in a conscious effort to serve others as Jesus served us, it is prayer.”
Alborghetti introduces many other forms of prayer and prayer helps, including music, symbols, centering-repetition, writing, even a business model known as “Appreciative Inquiry.”
A weak chapter, on praying “When You’re Angry and Fearful,” veers toward a self-help category in language and tone. A few third-person anecdotes present the issues from a distance, without the power of the author’s own struggle and victory.
The final chapter, praying “When You Need to Trust,” introduces the idea of a prayer Sabbath: “On one day each week, I say no verbal prayers except for the prayers my husband and I start and end our day with…. I use my once-a-week silence to be quiet in the presence of the Lord. For me, that silence requires trust.”
The last page ends with a quotation from John 7, with Jesus saying, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” This book itself is a cool draught of water for a searching soul.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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