One of the Most Complete and Accessible Books on Prayer
My good friend Charles Kinnard has written a very “tasty” review of both the book Pray Like a Gourmet but also the Prayer Tastings (a way of sharing the concept of the book over a meal)
PRAY LIKE A GOURMET – A Book Review
In the interest of full disclosure, I have known David Brazzeal, the author of Pray Like a Gourmet, since we were freshmen in college. I have also followed along on his blogsite of the same name and have participated in some of the activities and dialogue on that site. Also, it was my privilege to attend one of his prayer workshops (which he calls “prayer tastings”) where he elaborated upon his concepts of prayer. The workshop was done in the context of a shared meal to emphasize the “gourmet” aspects of his approach to prayer. In addition to food and instruction, there was music, interactive participation, and periods of quiet meditation. When David asked me to review his book, I was happy to do so and he sent me an advance copy to review. That being said, I must also say thatPray Like a Gourmet is one of the most complete and accessible volumes on prayer that I have read.
Just as a good meal will offer a full range to the palate from light to heavy, from savory to sweet, Pray Like a Gourmet encourages the reader to experience a wide range of prayer practices. Brazzeal offers a number of “prayer recipes” from his own experiences. He describes many simple prayer activities designed to help one break out of his or her prayer-time rut. Throughout the process, the author encourages the reader to live with gratitude and to take note of the world in which we live. One example is his “Slice of life” prayer practice:Beautifully illustrated, the book is organized in an intuitive manner that would make the book a wonderful guide for small group study or for individual practice. What struck me is how the author expands the notion of prayer and offers the reader a prayer guide that is borne out of his own deep longing for a more real and meaningful connection with God.
Take just one “slice” of your life—focus on a moment of transition, of confusion, of illness, of inspiration, of transcendence. Then begin to “thank” your way through all the details: the people, the events, the decisions involved at that crucial time. Feel free to express your gratitude however you feel at the moment: say it, sing it, draw it, write it, walk it, or eat it . . . the more variety, the better (and the more interesting).
Brazzeal advocates a number of different ways to practice prayer and meditation such as walking through the park and taking note of the people you see, doing a “museum meditation” at the local museum of art, or a “forest walk” to nurture a sense of wonder, praise, and gratitude.
Having been to one of David Brazzeal’s Prayer Tastings, and now having read his book, I can heartily recommend Pray Like a Gourmet for individual or group study. The book also comes highly recommended by others who have previewed it, such as this quote from Brian McLaren: A quick glance at the Table of Contents will show the reader something of the range of prayer practices that the author presents: praising, thanking, confessing, blessing, observing, meditating, asking, interceding, etc. He even includes an important section on lamenting. Here the author very skillfully guides the reader in how to bring our sorrows and losses before God. The lament is a form of prayer we can find in scripture, but it is often not covered in your typical religious instruction. It is certainly not addressed enough within the context of prayer and it is one more indication of the book’s authenticity – that it is not just the “nice and lovely” that we include in our prayers to God. Moreover, as the author points out very early on in the book, prayer is not just a matter of asking for things.
If I were a beginning cook, I would want a guide who was experienced, flexible, enthusiastic, and sensitive to the questions and insecurities of an absolute beginner. And if I were a beginner in prayer, I would want David Brazzeal to be my teacher. Even as someone who has prayed for most of my life, I found PRAY LIKE A GOURMET to be nourishing, delicious, and delightful.