BOOK REVIEW: AT YOUR SIDE: PRAYERS FOR MESSY, DELIGHTFUL, COMPLICATED, OUTRAGEOUS, EVERYDAY LIFE

It can be easy to pray for certain things – for medical test results to be negative, for a troubled family member, for the world to recover from the coronavirus… But our days are often filled with events or situations that leave us a bit flummoxed. Can we pray for things like how to handle a difficult meeting at work, how to slow down or how to stop complaining so much? In At Your Side, authors Raymond Friel and David Wells give a resounding yes!

In their view, praying about anything and everything helps us to remember that Jesus is at our side always and no matter what. Prayer becomes a conversation with Jesus; that conversation becomes a relationship. Before we know it, we are aware of Jesus walking with us through what the authors call “the messy, delightful, complicated, outrageous and mundane things of life.”

This doesn’t mean throwing the Church’s traditional prayers out the window. Instead, we are invited to build on those beloved prayers as we encounter Jesus every day. Over time, our lives themselves will become a prayer.

The book is suited to both individuals or groups – the range of subjects and approaches means there is something for everyone, and you will find yourself returning to these words again and again. The prayers are accompanied by scripture quotes, insights from Christian authors and questions for reflection. Here are just a few of the topics covered:

  • Morning prayer (5 of them!)
  • When I’m wasting time
  • On the need to wake up
  • When my child is asleep
  • When I lose my faith
  • When I need to make up my mind
  • When I haven’t finished my e-mails
  • When I regret the things I’ve done
  • When I can’t pray

The two authors bring a lot of experience, thought and, well, prayer to this collection. Raymond Friel is a school administrator in the UK and the author of Gospel Values for Catholic Schools and Prayers for Schools. David Wells is the author of the bestselling books The Reluctant Disciple: Daring to Believe and The Grateful Disciple: Daring to Be Loved. He is a popular speaker from the UK who visits Canada regularly on speaking tours. Both love to inject their prayers with a sense of the divine but also, at times, a sense of humour. Here is one of the prayers from the collection.

When things aren’t just right

Thank you for the dappled things.

For terms and conditions in tiny print.

For indecipherable contracts and bullet points.

For huge instruction manuals in twenty languages.

For insider terminology and technical jargon.

Thank you for the dappled things.

For bag handles which break.

For narrow parking spaces.

For the times they move the products around.

For missing parts in flat-pack furniture.

Thank you for the dappled things.

For glitches in “communication.”

For jammed feeder trays in busy copiers.

For servers going down.

For reports diligently written which no one reads.

Thank you for the dappled things.

For grey days with a chance of rain.

For spots and wrinkles.

For getting sick while on vacation.

For dead car batteries on cold mornings.

Thank you for the dappled things.

For lost pin numbers and forgotten passwords.

For certificates we can’t find.

For warranties and guarantees we thought were in a drawer.

Thank you for the dappled things.

For Mondays.

For bosses in a hurry.

For data reviews and deadlines.

For targets and performance reviews.

Thank you for the dappled things.

Because, in the end, Lord, it is right and just

to give you thanks, always and everywhere.

Amen.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

… All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”

Personal reflection

• Why might gratitude be so important?

Anne Louise Mahoney, Managing Editor

At Your Side: Prayers for Messy, Delightful, Complicated, Outrageous, Everyday Life can be found and purchased here.

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