Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God


Praise for Paths to Prayer

"Patricia D. Brown writes about prayer with sensitivity, depth, and comprehensiveness. Most of all, she shares out of her considerable experience, which balances her study of various forms of relating to the divine."
–Wayne Teasdale, member, Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and author, A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life

"In her remarkable new book, Patricia D. Brown tutors us in the spiritual art of prayer. ...

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Praise for Paths to Prayer

"Patricia D. Brown writes about prayer with sensitivity, depth, and comprehensiveness. Most of all, she shares out of her considerable experience, which balances her study of various forms of relating to the divine."
–Wayne Teasdale, member, Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and author, A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life

"In her remarkable new book, Patricia D. Brown tutors us in the spiritual art of prayer. Gentle, practical, and wise–what a wonderful invitation to the spiritual journey. I can’t recommend this book highly enough."
–Lauren Artress, author, Walking a Sacred Path, and canon for special ministries, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

"Paths to Prayer is a sensitive exploration of the role of prayer in everyday life. No matter which spiritual or religious path you have chosen, you will benefit from this wonderful book."
–Larry Dossey, author, Healing Beyond the Body, Prayer Is Good Medicine, and Healing Words

"We cannot be fulfilled human beings without attention to prayer. Patricia D. Brown’s Paths to Prayer is one of the best guides to a richer spiritual life to appear in years."
–Barbara Montgomery Dossey, author, Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer; Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice; and Rituals of Healing

"This is an excellent book for beginners and the proficient alike."
–Andrew Dreitcer, associate professor of spirituality and director of spiritual formation, Claremont School of Theology, and associate professor of religion, Claremont Graduate University

"Paths to Prayer aids us in our quest to discover prayer forms that create in us space for God."
–Joe Driskill, assistant professor of spirituality and assistant dean, Disciples Seminary Foundation, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787965655
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/19/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 432,022
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia D. Brown, ph.D., founder and director of Spiritworks Inc., is an ordained United Methodist minister, pastoral theo-logian, and associate professor of educational ministries and Christian formation in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University. She frequently conducts retreats, workshops, and seminars, speaks at major conferences nationwide, and is the author of nine books.

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Read an Excerpt

Paths to Prayer

Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God

By Patricia D. Brown

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Patricia D. Brown
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7879-6565-0


Teresa of Avila wrote:

Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between
friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who
we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love
much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight
but desire to please God in everything.

It is this thought of Teresa's, paired with a loving desire to teach a deep and lasting
love of prayer to others, that is at the heart of this text. My whole life, in one sense,
has been an experiment in how to be honest-before God and with myself-in
prayer. For honest prayer arises in an attitude of humility-a humility that opens
the mind and heart, our whole being, to God. In humility I renounce my own power
and acknowledge my poverty and dependence on God. I leave behind all the illusions
about myself and am grounded in the truth of my life. It is in this truth that
I learn to practice the presence of God in the midst of my daily life.

I created this collection of prayer practices for people who want to join me on
a journey of discovery to lookfor ways to mature and move into a practice-centered
life of prayer. I have drawn on the wealth of faith-based practices from Christian
tradition, across centuries and communities, to present prayer practices and rituals
that can speak to each of us, wherever we are in our journey of faith. As you explore
these ways of praying, I hope you will find the integrity that helps you to be humble
and honest in your prayer life.

Teresa's guidebook on prayer, The Way of Perfection, was written during a controversial
time of reform in the saint's religious community, the Carmelite Order. Intended
to serve as a guide in the practice of prayer, it sets forth directives for
growing into the image of Christ through prayer. Like Teresa, my aim in writing
this guidebook is to do justice to the needs of the present turbulent age within religious
institutions and our culture.

Sage words from Teresa's prologue offer further guidance for me: "I shall speak
of nothing of which I have no experience, either in my own life or in observation of
others, or which the Lord has not taught me in prayer." Many wise men and women
past and present have experienced God through prayer; we could spend a lifetime
learning from them. In creating this book, I've consulted the teachings of both traditional
and contemporary theologians, and in the workshops and prayer retreats I
lead I've listened to the experience of people who faithfully practice prayer. I have
drawn on their wisdom to supplement my own knowledge and experience.

Yet experience remains my best teacher. I try to be open to what my own prayerful
encounters, along with common sense, have to teach me. In this book, I share
practices and methods that have changed my life since I began to create an "inner
room" for God. These writings contain some of the understandings that have come
to light as I struggled to put prayer into practice, both in my own life and in my
work with others who also seek a prayerful relationship with God.

I believe that an authentic Christian life is one that binds us to Christ and leads
us each moment, through the power of God's Spirit, as we continue to enter the
daily struggle of accepting the gift and responsibility that the Holy Spirit gives. My
end desire remains the same: that I draw closer to God and dwell in the Holy. I hold
fast to the promise that "the one who began a good work among you will bring it
to completion by the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). This desire has in turn fed my
intention in writing this book: to provide a resource of prayer practices for thinking
believers that integrates heart and head, faith and reason, and holy living with
active compassion. My prayer is that you will find ways of praying that make you
attentive to the needs of the world around you, and that create a sacred space in
which you move past your differences with others of faith, to find commonality
and community.

We are in the midst of an awakening that underscores the breakdown of isolation
among all the spiritual traditions. In fact, a recent study showed that 85 percent
of those Americans who responded who identify with Christianity do not
exclude from their lives wisdom and teachings from other great world religions.
They understand that other faiths have something to share with us; their writings,
teachings, and practices help us understand our own faith in a fresh way.

My hope is that Christians are healthily moving past the walls of prejudice to
become part of a greater universal community, but without negating their own rich
faith tradition. We are gaining a deep, evolving experience of community between
and among faiths and a growing receptivity to the inner treasures of the world's religions.
Catholic Brother Wayne Teasdale, author of The Mystic Heart, explains that
openness to other faiths does not mean that one submerges the differences; instead,
this spirituality sees traditions in relationship to one another, opening the door to a
broader truth.

My further hope, therefore, is that by encouraging exploration of prayers and
practices used in different cultures throughout the two thousand years of Christian
history, you will discover new ways to encounter the divine that deepen both your
faith and your understanding of God.

I have attempted to create an easy-to-read, user-friendly handbook that you can
apply on your own or in a group. Paths to Prayer leads you through step-by-step instructions
for more than forty ways to pray. These gentle introductions to a variety
of prayer styles encourage even the most hesitant of spirit to find ways of praying
that are comfortable for them. This hands-on approach is intended for those who
want to learn to pray, those who already pray but want to deepen their practice of
prayer, and those who want to know how prayer "works." Using illustration and instruction,
the book balances intellectual knowledge of prayer along with heart-centered
practices that can be applied to our lives and transform us.

Obviously, each practice in this book has had to be simplified, abridged, and
shortened to make it manageable for a first-time introduction. One colleague, a Jesuit
with an intimate knowledge of Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, was amazed that I
would try to reduce Ignatian prayer to such a short order, thereby leaving out important
nuances. This is the reason I list so many other resources you can turn to for further
instruction. This book is meant to whet your appetite, not serve the full course.

Before we set out on this journey together, I would like to clarify my approach
to writing a book about prayer. First, no single book could hold all the ways of
praying, for there are as many ways to pray as there are souls who walk the earth. I
don't have the definitive word on prayer, but my hope is that in the variety of
prayers included in this book you may find some prayer practices that speak to you.
Whether you choose to develop one practice or many, my end desire remains the
same: that you grow closer to God and reside in the Holy.

Second, I have very little patience with prepackaged answers or categorizations
that make prayer sound easy and manageable. Prayer is not something to be managed.
Nor is it always easy. I'm skeptical of aggressive efforts by some religious individuals
and groups who push shortcut methods to a comfortable prayer life and
do not struggle with the whole person. I favor a slower, but sturdier and more humbling,
development of one's prayer life that builds an all-embracing spiritual foundation
for the sometimes-difficult soul searching that prayer requires.

I find little validity in romanticized prayer, idealized in sweetness and light, an
approach that sees the rose while denying the thorn. It bypasses the reality of
searching and the hard work of self-surrender that comes as we open our mind and
heart-our whole being-to God. This is not a recipe book or an invitation to escape.
Rather, it is an invitation to wrestle with the responsibility that prayer entails,
both within our own souls and also in the world around us. Theologian Karl Barth
is said to have observed that the Christian of today should have a Bible in one hand
and a newspaper in the other. I agree. A life of prayer doesn't turn its back on the
concerns of the world. Instead, it helps us discover the felt presence of God amid
the nitty-gritty of everyday living.

How to Use This Book

This book is structured so that the practices of prayer can be taught in a variety of
settings and circumstances. Along with some basics of prayer to get you started,
I have included a prayer styles self-assessment, which invites you to reflect on your
life, your beliefs, and your way of interacting with the world. Your responses on the
self-assessment will guide you toward one of four styles of prayer-innovative,
searching, relational, and experiential-that can serve as a comfortable starting
point for the growth of your prayer life. Try a prayer, allow it to touch you, and then
stop to reflect and absorb the prayer and mull it over for some time after experiencing
it, before moving on to the next. Allow the experience to live and grow, just as
your prayer life grows. You will discover that the experience of a particular prayer
becomes more meaningful as you practice it on your own. You may find yourself
jumping around in this book, scanning back to a previous chapter or exercise to reconsider
a certain prayer with understanding and clarity you might have gleaned
from a different practice altogether. Most of these practices can be used by an individual,
but some do require a partner.

If you are more brave-hearted and have adventurous friends, gather a group to
join you in this informal experiment. People who want to learn how to pray appreciate
giving and receiving assistance from like-minded individuals. You'll find that
there are lots of people who want to expand their spiritual life or learn how to pray.

Each practice begins with basic teachings and is laid out in an easy-to-follow
manner for use by an individual or a group. If you are in a group, it is not necessary
to have one appointed facilitator. Instead, the group members may want to rotate
the responsibility. Through God's spirit, participants become teachers as well as the
light of discovery for one another. Check beforehand to make sure you have any required
props, such as beads for the rosary or a floor mat for the body prayer.
Choose a space or room where you won't be interrupted. You might want to dim
the lights, or burn a candle to give your space a more intimate atmosphere.

The first section common to most of the chapters, "Thoughts Before You
Begin," helps you understand the history and background of a particular prayer
practice. Be careful not to spend so much time in preparing that you don't leave sufficient
time for the most important element, the practice itself.

The "Now Begin" section gives the step-by-step instructions. Take a few moments
to center or quiet yourself before taking the first step. Then allow ample time
for the prayer practice itself. Don't rush the experience.

"Some Things to Think About" and "Questions for Reflection" help you debrief
your experience. If you are in a group, remember to pause for a few minutes
of silence and reflection before opening a group discussion. Thinking about your
experience of a prayer following the prayer itself is extremely important. Reflecting
on your experience and putting it into words helps you come to thoughtful conclusions
about your spiritual growth and development. If you are working through this
book alone, you might seek the guidance of a spiritual companion, director, or
mentor. When we tell our stories in the context of our faith, we become more aware
of how God is speaking to us. When we listen carefully with our hearts as well as
our heads, God touches us in a greater way than we ever imagined possible.

If you are in a group, share your experience in ways that honor each person's
uniqueness. Sometimes it may be appropriate for you to respond to others in your
group verbally, but most often listening is the best response. As you allow one another
to share freely and as you learn to refrain from responding when it is unnecessary
or unhelpful, you may experience what it means to serve as the
compassionate presence of Christ to one another. Warmth and mutual support are
present, but they are not the focus. Instead, the focus is the working of the Holy
Spirit helping each individual to grow in faithfulness.

"Other Resources to Continue Your Journey," in most of the chapters, lists additional
books and resources for study and practice. Between meetings, members of the
group may choose to continue to explore the same practice until the next meeting,
when they can set aside a period of time to share insights and reflections together.

My Own Path to Prayer

My most recent study of prayer has been as an academic theological discipline, and
I frequently lead seminars and retreats for people who also seek to nurture their
spiritual growth. But my experience of Jesus began long ago, with dim awareness of
the stirring of the Spirit in my heart as a young girl in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
I was raised in a Christian home and an orthodox "Bible believing" congregation.
It is from their faithful example that I continue to participate in the Church,
the body of Christ, and God's mission.

As a young adult, I joined with the Evangelical United Brethren, who merged
into the United Methodist Church, where I was ushered into the orthodox teachings
and historic creeds of the Church. I continue to celebrate the gifts I received
from my Wesleyan heritage, which gives me spiritual practices that have deepened
my faith. In keeping with Wesley's "catholic spirit," I embrace the gifts Christians of
past ages have conferred to us, which hold a vast storehouse of experience from
which we can extract ways of being with God.

* * *

My prayer life took a drastic turn at the death of my young husband, Richard. I was
twenty-five, with a three-year-old son. As Richard underwent a series of surgeries,
and through the final one, I prayed consistently for his recovery. But as his condition
worsened, my prayers changed too. After four weeks, I no longer demanded
God's cure, but rather God's compassion. I saw my husband's body for what it was:
unable to sustain his life as God intended it. How did my prayer change? Richard
was facing more surgical procedures, which would only prolong his suffering. His
life had become a grueling struggle, each day worse than the last. What sort of lover
would I be to make such a totally selfish request?

For Richard, my deepest desire was not that he live, but that he no longer suffer.
In that moment, God's will and my desire became one. My prayer was answered
with a yes.


Excerpted from Paths to Prayer
by Patricia D. Brown
Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


An Invitation to Prayer.

Foundations of Prayer: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

How Do You Pray? Finding Your Prayer Type.

Searching Prayer.

Lord’s Prayer.

Praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina.

A Journal of Prayer.


Praying with Icons.


Prayers for the Dead.

Experiential Prayer.


Abstinence from Food.

Fasting as Prayerful Solitude.

Breath Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer: Prayer of the Heart.

Benediction and Blessing.

Tallith: The Prayer Shawl.

Centering Prayer.

Meditation: Mental Prayer.

Anointing for Healing.

Relational Prayer.

Adoration Prayer.

Affirmation Prayer.

Prayers of Confession.

Prayer of Examen.

The Daily Office.

Tongsung Kido.

Prayer Walks.

An Emmaus Walk.

Stations of the Cross.

Innovative Prayer.

Praying with Our Bodies.

Palms Up, Palms Down Prayer.

Body Prayer.

Body Prayer with Music.

Prayer Labyrinth.

Home Prayer Altars.

Ignatian Prayer: Guided Imagination.

Prayer Beads.

Praying the Rosary.

Chaplet of Seven: Covenant Chaplet.

Praying with Mandalas.

Prayer Dance.

Dancing the Lord’s Prayer.

Hava Nagila Circle Prayer Dance.

Dance of Jesus.

A Closing Benediction.

Suggested Lectionary Readings.



The Author.

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