Thursday, August 23, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions about Prayer in Motion

Now that Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times has been released into the world, here are answers to a few of the most common anticipated questions that might arise about it.

Wait, didn't you just release a new book in June? Why, yes, I did. The story goes that I sent a proposal for Wonder and Whiskey pretty much on a lark, just to see what would happen. When I didn't hear back for a while I assumed that nothing would come of it, and turned my attention to the idea for Prayer in Motion instead. Then in the middle of receiving some interest for the latter, I heard back from Wipf and Stock about publishing the former. So as strange as it seems for me to be publishing two books pretty much back to back, it's all due to a fortunate series of events and coincidental timing.

So, what's this book about? As a pastor and spiritual director, I've accumulated enough anecdotal evidence that a lot of people find prayer difficult either because they don't think they have enough time or because they feel distracted when they do sit down to try it. Prayer in Motion states that you don't necessarily have to sit still to pray, and that in fact you can do it while engaging in other activities.

How specifically does Prayer in Motion address this? Most chapters focus on a specific activity that most people may engage in on a typical day: doing chores, commuting to work, fidgeting with a pen while doing something else, taking a walk, eating a meal, and so on. Then it pulls from a variety of classical spiritual practices, well-regarded spiritual figures, and scriptural passages to show how each of these can take on a prayerful quality if we approach them in a certain spirit. So the chapter on taking a walk uses the labyrinth, the one on commuting borrows from the practice of pilgrimage, the one on chores uses wisdom from Brother Lawrence, and so on.

This sounds similar to your first book. How's this one different? Coffeehouse Contemplative did talk a great deal about finding God in the ordinary and mundane of everyday life, but it was more theoretical in nature. Prayer in Motion is kind of the practical sequel, with more hands-on tips for carrying out the earlier book's reflections. And just like the first book, this one has a section at the end of each chapter with questions for reflection, but also suggestions for how to make each activity prayerful.

But doesn't this book end up encouraging a busy and distracted life rather than advocate for carving out time for rest and quiet? Some critics might react that way, but no. I address that possible objection early on, saying that folding prayer into other activities isn't a substitute for time off and renewal. What I am trying to do is 1) acknowledge the person with the full day who just wants to collapse rather than add one more activity onto their to-do list, even if it's prayer, and 2) show how they can cultivate an awareness of God's presence while checking those other things off. It makes more sense to me for people to learn how to seek God in all things rather than shame them into doing one more thing after finishing all the other stuff. Such shaming to me seems like the opposite of encouraging rest.

Where else can I keep up with book and author news besides this blog? I send out a monthly-ish e-newsletter that you can subscribe to here. I also provide updates on my professional Facebook page and on Twitter.

Any plans for a release event? Oh, probably. I'm thinking another Facebook Live event and something in-person. Stay tuned.