Cover image for Learn to pray : a practical guide to faith and inspiration
Learn to pray : a practical guide to faith and inspiration
Braybrooke, Marcus.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
159 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL560 .B64 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Every day, more people are discovering prayer as a way of dealing with stress and attaining inner peace. But the first steps can be daunting. Here at last is a guide to treading the mystical path with practical feet. In the tradition of this best-selling series, Learn to Pray combines ethereal illustrations with step-by-step exercises, offering concrete methods for concentrating, making a spiritual connection, and interpreting the answers--whatever your faith. With each chapter, the possibilities unfold, revealing a wellspring of personal strength and a greater capacity for joy. In addition, the selection of prayers from voices as diverse as St. Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu perfectly complements any system of belief. With insight, beauty, and wisdom, Learn to Pray shows that the means to spiritual well-being are inside of us all.

Author Notes

Marcus Braybrooke is Patron of the International Interfaith Centre in Oxford, England.

(Bowker Author Biography)



Chapter One The Dawn of Understanding Prayer, like plugging in an electrical appliance or logging on to the Internet, is a way of connecting. We may not understand how electricity or the World Wide Web work, but we still benefit from using them. Likewise, when we pray we may not at first understand to whom we are praying, nor how we might be answered, but by daring to make the connection we can access a reservoir of energy and understanding that is buried within us.     We do not need to use traditional religious approaches -- to kneel, to clasp our hands, or to visit temples, synagogues, mosques or churches. We do not even need to speak of God. If we can see that there is more to life than meets the eye, that we can achieve more than merely the satisfaction of our senses or our material ambitions, then we have already taken the important first step. Our prayer life will soon begin to grow and deepen inside us, as we discover the resources that lie within -- a bottomless well of love and affirmation. the value of prayer "Prayer," wrote the English novelist Iris Murdoch (1919-1999), "is the most essential of all human activities." We need prayer. By making it part of our daily routine, we can contact our true selves, learn to understand what we really, deeply want - and establish connections with others and with the world at large. Before we embark upon our spiritual journey, it is encouraging to enumerate some of the benefits prayer can bring to our lives.     In a world that pressures us to do everything at speed, prayer is a productive way to slow down. Pausing for a few minutes of prayer each day gives us the chance to review our deepest yearnings. Travelling into our inner selves, we gain confidence in our own resources, and discover a strength greater than our own. The self-knowledge and confidence that prayer brings can be a powerful help when we have to deal with misfortune or self-doubt. We can gain perspective on, say, a family argument, and see that our deepest selves are resilient, unaffected by such difficulties. In a crisis such as a serious illness we may find that prayer puts us in touch with therapeutic energies we only partly understand.     Prayer can also bind us together with others. Simply saying a brief prayer together before a meal, for example, expressing gratitude for the food we are about to enjoy and for each other's company, can help reinforce a sense of fellowship or kinship. Prayer can make us more sympathetic to others' predicaments -- when we pray for other people we imaginatively put ourselves in their place, and our goodness is enlarged as this happens. By encouraging our sympathy for others, prayer moves our attention away from what divides us and toward what unites us. Think of someone who has recently annoyed or offended you. Do you think you could forgive him or her? Sitting quietly, visualize the person, then think of five ways in which you are alike and five things that you would both enjoy doing. Imagine yourself expressing your forgiveness by offering a prayer could you do this?     Many people who have experimented with prayer report that it brings them to a sense of harmony with all people and - in a spirit of thanksgiving - with nature. If we are all united, then we all share responsibility for the state of the world, and by following prayer's guide and modifying our behaviour, we can all effect change. Prayer is nothing less than an instrument for the transformation of the world. As a Chinese prayer puts it, "Change the world and begin with me." pray as you can, not as you can't As I began to write this, a squirrel ran up our drive, stretched itself out and started to sunbathe. I watched with riveted attention, admiring the squirrel's self-possession and vitality in repose. A line by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) echoed in my mind - "What I do is me, for that I came." Was that prayer? I do not know and I doubt whether it matters. For a few moments my spirit was uplifted. There are hundreds of definitions of prayer, and there is no right way to pray. As an old adage puts it, "Pray as you can, not as you can't."     The first step in learning to pray is to free ourselves from preconceptions of what prayer is. Perhaps childhood memories of being forced to say prayers have put us off for years; we may not believe in God; or we may doubt whether prayer has any effect. It is important not to feel anxious about such thoughts - they need not prevent us from finding our own way of praying, and they often fade as we discover the peace that prayer can bring. We should never be discouraged from embarking on our adventure. We are never too young or too old to benefit from learning to pray.     The second step on the road to prayer is to forget any fixed ideas we may have about how to pray. We do not need to worry whether we use words or keep quiet, whether we kneel down or sit or stand, whether we place our hands together or hold prayer beads. We can pray at any time, anywhere, in any way. The only prerequisite for prayer is that we be ourselves. Excerpted from learn to pray by Marcus Braybrooke. Copyright © 2001 by Duncan Baird Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

The Dawn of Understandingp. 10
The value of prayerp. 12
Pray as you can, not as you can'tp. 14
Exercise 1 Liberate your spiritp. 15
The light withinp. 16
Exercise 2 Start your inner sunrisep. 19
What do we call god?p. 20
Be stillp. 22
Exercise 3 Find an inner sanctuaryp. 23
Promise and commitmentp. 24
Exercise 4 Commit to prayerp. 25
Awe and wonderp. 26
Heart, mind and emotionp. 28
A different perspectivep. 30
Exercise 5 Smile in the momentp. 31
Qualities of the divinep. 32
Blessingsp. 34
Dialogue with the Divinep. 36
Someone is listeningp. 38
Exercise 6 See the arrowp. 39
Askingp. 40
Saying thank youp. 44
Exercise 7 Pray thankfullyp. 47
Seeking help in a crisisp. 48
Exercise 8 Catch the safety linep. 49
Love and adorationp. 50
Exercise 9 Feel the divine embracep. 51
A union of lovep. 52
Exercise 10 Melt with lovep. 55
Asking for helpp. 56
Stillness and Silencep. 60
Meditation and contemplationp. 62
Stilling the bodyp. 64
Exercise 11 Settle into calmp. 65
Silencing the mindp. 66
Exercise 12 Still your thoughtsp. 67
Prayer and readingp. 68
Exercise 13 Uncover the sensep. 69
Learning to be nothingp. 70
Learning to be everythingp. 72
Exercise 14 Find unity with a flowerp. 73
Discipline as prayerp. 74
Going on retreatp. 76
Exercise 15 Give yourself giftsp. 77
In stillness find inner peacep. 78
The Outward Gesturep. 82
Body languagep. 84
Images and iconsp. 86
Exercise 16 Receive divine lightp. 89
Flowers and fruitp. 90
Exercise 17 Pray through flowersp. 91
Music and songp. 92
Exercise 18 Pray through musicp. 93
Sacred placesp. 94
Pilgrimagep. 96
Exercise 19 Take a sacred walkp. 97
Special meals and ceremoniesp. 98
Daily mealsp. 100
Exercise 20 Before we beginp. 101
Using a prayer bookp. 102
Prayer and daily lifep. 104
Exercise 21 Write a morning prayerp. 107
The rhythm of lifep. 108
Self and Othersp. 112
Private prayer, loving servicep. 114
Exercise 22 Marginalize yourselfp. 115
Sharing prayerp. 116
Exercise 23 Make a gatheringp. 119
Celebration and customp. 120
Seeking forgivenessp. 122
Forgiving othersp. 124
Exercise 24 Shake hands in prayerp. 125
Empathy in prayerp. 126
Exercise 25 Offer your supportp. 127
Intercession and healingp. 128
Facing bereavementp. 130
Teaching children to prayp. 132
Exercise 26 Respect our planetp. 133
Compassion, forgiveness, peacep. 134
Visions of a New Worldp. 138
Finding your visionp. 140
Cultivating hopep. 142
Exercise 27 Launch hopep. 143
The healing of memoriesp. 144
The gifts of compassionp. 146
Unity in all thingsp. 148
The foundation of fellowshipp. 150
Visionary words and deedsp. 152
Further readingp. 156
Indexp. 157
Acknowledgmentsp. 160