Brazzeal (Now Paul, He was a Servant) has written a cookbook for prayer—literally. After a first section that likens learning to pray to learning to cook and also notes the importance of food in the Bible, the author, who lives in Paris, divides the book into sections. Instead of soups, salads, sides, main courses, and desserts, these sections cover different types of prayer, such as thanksgiving, confessing, and asking, complete with “recipes.” Thus “praising” prayers, which are likened to hors d’oeuvre, contain “recipes” that call for praying by writing down all the verbs in Psalm 147 or by creating a physical movement that opens you to God. Likewise, recipes for “blessing” prayers include visualizing a friend in a setting that represents well-being and joy. The book’s voice is exuberant and the cookbook idea clever and appealing. Rather than a tome to be read and forgotten, the volume is formatted as a resource to keep handy, maybe even among cookbooks. The book might benefit from less autobiography and even more recipes, but it’s still a delectable read, supplemented by tasty quotes from Christian sages. (Apr.) —Publisher’s Weekly
I attended a local Catholic church on Ash Wednesday this past February. Admittedly, I was nervous because I’m always afraid I’ll do something wrong in a Catholic church. What if I put my hand in the holy water and a siren goes off because it recognizes me as Protestant? But I need the holy water.
Before the service started, I took a seat in the back. In the silence, as I looked around the beautiful sanctuary, tears came to my eyes. The whole moment was beautiful. I’ve tried to pinpoint what touched me so much in those initial moments. Was it nerves? Fear I’d be found out? A memory?
After a few months of tossing it around in my mind, I think I’ve figured out why I was so moved. My whole body participated in the worship. My hands touched holy water. My eyes took in the beauty of the sanctuary before closing in prayer. I smelled the ashes, remains of the palm branches, long before I saw them. I would have nothing to taste as I cannot participate in Catholic Communion. I could hear nothing, then quietly, music infiltrated the room.
It felt so good to worship Jesus with my whole self. Is it possible to incorporate that into my everyday worship? Would that make worship more meaningful?
About a month later, while still processing these thoughts, I had an opportunity to read an advanced copy of Pray Like A Gourmet, written by David Brazzeal.
First, the author lives in France. If anyone knows gourmet.... This beautifully illustrated book explores this very concept. Can we enhance our worship, indeed our entire relationship, with God by engaging more of our senses?
Is there something in your spirit that keeps telling you it should be different: more interesting, more engaging, more creative, more profound? Does your prayer life feel like you’re eating the same food over and over every day - mixing the same ingredients but hoping for a new, more enticing dish?In culinary circles around the world, many people are now pushing back and taking the time to peel, chop, and cook locally grown food with their own unique flair. We, too, can push back and engage in seeking authentic, calm, and refreshing nourishment for our soul - each one of us, of course, with our own flair.
For David, he started developing this desire for more back in the 80s. In Rio de Janeiro. He started learning how to sit in the silence of God. Listening to all that was going on inside him. Blocking out all the outside noise. Here is a starting-point prayer exercise; start by simply telling God how great and wonderful he is. Use lots of adjectives as ingredients. Explore the well-stocked spice rack of his intriguing and sometimes exotic names.
Of course, his journey introduced him to some great writers and saints from the past. He generously introduces his readers to these individuals too. Madame Guyon, St. Francis of Assisi. Richard Foster. To name a few. The prayer of Adoration must be learned. It does not come automatically... Thanksgiving, praise, adoration - those are seldom the first words in our minds... or on our lips. We need all the help we can get in order to move into a deeper, fuller adoring. —Richard Foster
Part one of the book gives us all the tools to “set up a basic kitchen with God.” Then, in part two, he gives you activities to feast with God one on one.
He answers such questions as:
What types of prayers exist?
What means of expression can I use to aid me when I pray?
Moving into part two, readers will find an invaluable resource. He shares his “recipes,” if you will. In my own words, here are a few of his suggestions:
Create art - praise. Put your art down on paper. Make a design. Hum your praises as you do so.
Recite the Psalms - out loud. Joyful noise. Laments. Converse with God.
Count the ways you are thankful. Live life in gratitude.
No matter what I go through, even the worst tragedy of my life, I can find some things for which I’m thankful - maybe only one little thing....
Offer (and receive) blessings.
Although I had nothing to offer in return, I came to understand that there was something beneficially reciprocal happening to the people who were blessing me... In so doing, they inevitably lived life on a higher plane, if only for a few moments. It always smelled like the kingdom of God to me.
This book works best as a workbook. Full of good truths to read. But better if you take the activities he suggests and do them yourself. In Psalm 34:8a, we are encouraged to: Taste and see that the LORD is good. It would appear David was on to something. —Traci, Traces Of Faith
“Pray like a gourmet—I love the metaphor. I know what it means to have been preoccupied by excellent food and wine. I have also learned to apply that strong desire to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to be nourished and sustained, even to the point of resilience. I shall keep this series of “tasteful disciplines” close at hand and consume them daily as I hunger and thirst after his righteousness.” —Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet
LIKE A GOURMET is the gentlest, most readable, kindest guide to prayer one could ever hope to explore. Reading through its storied pages, one goes from “I never thought of that before” to “I could do that” to “I want to do that” and back again. This one is an adventure for the believing heart. —Phyllis Tickle
Simply beautiful! David Brazzeal takes the hospitality traditions of the French and the Brazilians and stirs in spiritual disciplines and alternative worship practices for a book on prayer unlike anything you’ve read before. He reminds us that time with God is a rich and delicious banquet that we share together, and not a drive-thru fast food meal we eat alone. Nourishing and indulgent. —Michael Frost, Morling College, Sydney, Australia
From the moment you read the Menu, – oops, my error! Let’s start again. From the moment you read the Table of Contents, Pray Like A Gourmet becomes a banquet for the soul and for the spirit. Since when has prayer been such a mouth-watering, taste bud awakening experience? Like food and wine, artisan bread and spring-fed water, prayer in its multiple forms is to be savoured as it feeds our inner beings. Prayer is the place of communion and of life-giving union with God. No room for deprivation here. Come and most heartily feast! —Pierre LeBel, Teacher and author of Imago Dei: devenir pleinement humain, YWAM Leader in Canada.
David takes the simplicity of gospel and makes it come alive in a most imaginative way. Using metaphors of food, he leads the reader through practices of prayer and time with God that enrich our relationship with the Father. Pray Like a Gourmet is written for the seasoned follower of Jesus but also for those who are new to the faith. —Chris Julian, university campus minister in Rio Grande du Sul, Brazil
In Pray Like a Gourmet, influenced by his rich culinary experience in Paris, I learn about new tools and tantalizing ingredients to add to the shelves of my prayer closet, ones I have never sampled before. Brazzeal describes traditional prayer forms like Praise, Gratitude, and Confession but adds some newcomers for me like Blessing, Observing, and Joining. For each prayer form, he provides creative, embodied ways to practice them. He is both a playful host and a serious chef at this delicious prayer banquet. Pray Like a Gourmet whets my appetite to expand and to enrich my prayer life. It is a book to use over and over again. With highlights, notes and turned-down pages, I might just want to make a space for it in the kitchen, right next to my favorite cookbook. —Sybil MacBeth, author of Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God
We all get stuck in our life of prayer… eating from the same old menu over and over. In Pray Like a Gourmet David reveals a whole new side of the menu that many do not know exists. If your prayer life has grown bland and tasteless, you definitely need to read this menu. It will take you to a new culinary level of praying, whetting your appetite to pray more deeply, enriching your life to live more freely and fully in Christ. —Randy Rains, Associate Vice President for Spiritual Life & Formation, International Mission Board, SBC, Richmond, Virginia
I’ve learned to devour books quickly but this one made me slow down. Reading about prayer is no substitute for taking the time to put into practice at least some of the numerous suggestions presented here. Prepare for a long sit-down meal because this is not fast food, it’s a feast. —Paul H. de Neui, PhD, Professor of Intercultural Studies and Missiology, Director of the Center for World Christian Studies, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois
David Brazzeal is an artist and consummate aesthete who experiences the wonder and beauty of life to the full. In this book he brings fresh eyes to old ingredients and lets us in on the “secret” sauce recipes that can make prayer really, really tasty. In delightfully lyrical yet simple language he describes food and prayer in ways that make me hungry for both. —Mark Scandrette, author of FREE, Soul Graffiti and Practicing the Way of Jesus. San Francisco, California
Increasingly, as a pastor in a local church, church members come to me and ask—sometimes plainly and sometimes cautiously cloaked in other words—“How can I know God?” These good people are Christian and already know a great deal about God. They believe. But a hunger in their souls whispers that they know more about God than they know the very self of God. And so, increasingly, I have a calling to help others find their way toward a richer life of prayer. David Brazzeal’s Pray like a Gourmet is a wonderful new resource for all of us who long to feast with God and for those of us who lead in Christian congregations. David’s open heart and deep experience shine through all he writes and even the stodgiest of us longs for new adventures in prayer. I rejoice that I may share this book with my congregation. —Rev. Lynn Smilie Nesbitt, United Methodist Pastor, Dothan, Alabama
Prayer, possibly the next frontier in faith, has been locked up and is often a prisoner of tradition. Not that the saints of old and biblical examples should be trivialized, but there is more to explore of our conversation with our creator and king. The most creative surely relishes our celebration and pursuit of His heart. Thank you, David Brazzeal, for painting a new canvas of conversation. —Joan Tankersley, Creative Director, Producer, Writer: Retronuvo Media, Houston, Texas
As someone who creates prayer experiences for a living, it’s so nice to find a kindred spirit! Pray Like a Gourmet is filled with great stories that help us expand our definitions of prayer, but more importantly David gives us creative ways to pray! I stopped while reading and actually did them! Thanks to Pray like a Gourmet, I have lots of new ingredients to add to my prayer practice! And David has encouraged me to get out my sauté pan and allow God, the Master Chef, to sauté new flavors into my life with Him. —Lilly Lewin, Founder of Thinplace and author of Sacred Space
David Brazzeal invites us into the “haute cuisine and the gourmet lifestyle” of Christian spirituality. I like to think of spirituality in the tradition as being alive and deeply rooted in the life of the Creator God in our rootedness in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in the world and for the world. Spiritual formation therefore takes many forms as we move deeper into the life of the Creator. This book is a fun and imaginative way to pursue those practices that allow us to receive the grace, so essential to that journey. Thanks David for a fine contribution to the literature! —Glenn Smith, professor, author and executive director of Christian Direction, Montréal, Québec
My first heart in the margin (shorthand for "love this") is on the second page. My first exclamation point (good point/review note) is on the fifth, and it just never stopped: I loved this book. Brazzeal expertly uses his meal metaphor, drawing lines between lingering over or rushing through food or prayer, repetition versus exploration, alone or with friends, simple or elaborate. (It bears mentioning, he also knows when the metaphor doesn't stretch, and doesn't force it.) "Does your prayer life feel like you're eating the same food over and over every day--mixing the same ingredients but hoping for a new, more enticing dish? ... We, too, can push back and engage in seeking authentic, calm, and refreshing nourishment for our soul--each one of us, of course, with our own flair" —Chandra
We all get bored with the same old fare, eating the same meal everyday. How many days of leftovers can you handle? Brazzeal’s book is an invitation to a richer and more varied spiritual diet. He is a Creative, and sees the intimate link between creativity and spirituality. I absolutely love the ‘recipes’ and am eager to make more and taste more. There is a nice balance between form and improvisation (he gives you a structure but doesn’t expect you to follow it woodenly) Brazzeal also has a rare gift of cutting through the ethereal and offering a practical approach to prayer. For example, his exploration of confession exhorts us to acknowledge sin and screw-ups, but he sets this in the wider category of a ‘reality check’ and taking an honest assessment of our life and circumstances (see chapter eight). He offers practical suggestions and clarifications on every aspect of prayer listed.
I give this book five stars and recommend it to anyone feeling stuck, hungry, or bored in their prayer life.--James Matichuk
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.
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....
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.
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.
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. —Charles Kinnaird