Published by Chalice Press on April 30, 2014
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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Never Pray Again encourages readers to "lift your chin, open your eyes, unfold your hands and get to work." The authors, writers of the popular "Two Friars and a Fool" blog, find the purpose of prayers not in the praying but in the doing--to Praise! Confess! Heal! Intercede! The book follows a traditional liturgical structure, drawing upon major forms of prayer and presenting each as a practice rather than merely a prayer.
I heard about Never Pray Again from April at The Steadfast Reader and was completely intrigued. I visited the authors’ website, Two Friars and a Fool, and read, listened, and watched for a couple weeks. I found I really connected with what they had to say.
Never Pray Again focuses on something that has unsettled me for a long time: Prayer. The premise of the book is that “prayer is often a substitute for action.” It makes us feel good, and it’s something we can do quickly and then forget about. Kind of like a narcissistic, religious form of slacktivism. The authors start out with a bang, explaining how this attitude is basically “Zombie Christianity.” Yes!
I loved the parallel between the message of this book and the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” initiative that my denomination has been encouraging this year. Are we missing opportunities to actually do something? To be God’s hands, stepping up and fulfilling an actual need? This book urges us to stop before offering verbal platitudes and thoughtfully consider whether or not we are actually helping its recipient in a concrete way.
A few minor issues:
- There was one brief but completely unnecessary moment of political snark. I’m so tired of that kind of thing. It only serves to potentially alienate people, and to dilute one’s overall message.
- Considering I purchased this book (it wasn’t a galley), there were too many typos. It could have used one more pass through an editor.
- I wish it had ended on a more useful note as far as prayer is concerned. They don’t seem to totally discount the act of praying. Instead, they say “it needed to be set free from the rock imprisoning it before it could be much use.” I would have liked for them to elaborate on that just a little more.
That aside, I love that the authors whittled away at the idea of God as a wish-granting genie in a bottle. It was so nice not to read a bunch of overused, feel-good platitudes and Christianese sound bytes. These guys actually acknowledge and address the real crap people face. The real needs they have. Problems that make an empty “I’ll be praying for you” feel like a slap in the face. They offer fresh perspectives and ideas that will help readers meet others where they are, more fully empathize with them, and then do something to help.