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Book Review: A Praying Life May 24, 2011

Posted by The Virtual Abbey in book review, spiritual practices.
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Reviewed by Sue Tanida.

A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World
Paul Miller
NavPress (2009)
Paper: 288 pps

A Praying Life is premised upon something I believe is true: most Christians feel inadequate about praying because we are perfectionists about the process.

We seek perfect prayer rather than a relationship with our Creator.

Paul Miller writes simply and from the heart about prayer. His own vulnerability makes his writing accessible. He shares about challenges he has faced in his own life, including having a special needs daughter. He admits that even pastors can be distracted and imperfect in their prayer lives.

This book definitely encourages readers to stop worrying about prayer and just pray. In fact, more than once, I saw myself in its pages and stopped to pray “God, this is so me.  Please help me get over myself and get more real with you…”

I love the structure of the Daily Office, but it’s important to pray spontaneously as well. I normally don’t pray out loud, other than in my car (and then I feel free to get pretty loud, especially if I’m angry or sad) and Miller’s book has helped me fit more moments of silent, spontaneous prayer into my life, whether it be while working out at the gym or even while using a restroom.

If you want to have a freer, more spontaneous, conversational relationship with God, I recommend this book. If you’re afraid to have a freer, more spontaneous, conversational relationship with God, I especially recommend this book.

Singing Builds Community January 10, 2011

Posted by The Virtual Abbey in music, spiritual practices.

Editor’s Note: Here at the Virtual Abbey, we form a community by praying together regularly but there are many ways to become community. Our Virtual Music Director, Rob Passow (@Rob_Mus) discusses how singing together creates and enhances a sense of community.

In his book The Singing Thing, John Bell of the Iona community in Scotland suggests eleven reasons we sing. Among these are to:

  • express emotion tell stories
  • be creative
  • obey God’s command to “sing a new song to the Lord”
  • be in community

To me, song is community. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love singing. When I am not singing in church, I’m looking for other people to sing with. When I lift my voice with others around me, I feel transformed by the music. Through the music I feel a spiritual connection to fellow singers.

In a recent blog post, composer Grant Charles Chaput offers a physiological explanation: “When we sing our bodies are the instruments; we are…viscerally connected to the music. And by virtue of singing in an ensemble, we are connected to one another.”

Our own voices are silent much of the time during worship services. We listen to one voice sharing God’s Spirit through prayers, preaching, teaching, storytelling and meditations. This is wonderful, for we have so much to learn from one another.

But when we sing as a group in worship, we become the prayers, preaching, teaching, storytelling and meditations. When we sing together in worship, we feel the joy of the Spirit in our song and we share that communal joy. We reinforce our sense of community.

And there are other benefits to singing in community. A recent study in England found that people who sing in groups experience increased confidence, reduced stress, increased social contact (naturally) and many people have been able to cut back on dosages of prescription medications!

So for the sake of our spiritual and physical health, let us heed Paul’s admonition: “Sing! Sing your hearts out to God!” (Colossians 3:16, The Message)

Image: Choir of Angels, Gozzoli (c. 1460)


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