We don't question our desire to be open with our close friends about our feelings, even if those feelings are difficult to express. We recognize that being honest with our loved ones will only deepen our bonds and help us feel peace in being able to express our innermost thoughts. Why then is it so challenging for us to come as we are, however we are, when approaching God in prayer? In Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer, William A. Barry, SJ, helps us deepen our friendship with God by examining how to approach God, at any time and with any problem, in complete honesty. Fr. Barry reflects on how secrecy can hurt families, the Church, and ourselves and how what we are keeping secret can get in the way of our connection with God. He acknowledges that we may fear God’s reaction when revealing our most intimate truths; but just like with friendships, we risk not developing our relationship with God if we are dishonest about who we are and how we feel. Praying the Truth helps us realize that if we do not approach God in complete honesty, we may be holding back a part of ourselves that needs to be healed. By learning how to communicate honestly with God, our friendship with God and our faith in God’s promise to love us unconditionally will be strengthened.
"Thanks to Praying the Truth, I am beginning to understand that prayer is simply hanging out with God! As I read this book, I felt as if the author seemed to be sitting beside me, just talking to me as I read."
-- Anonymous reader
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Praying the Truth is the third in a series of books Fr. Barry has written on human friendship as a model for our relationship with God. The first, a Friendship Like No Other, centered on evidence in Scripture that God desires our friendship. Changed Heart, Changed World looks at friendship with God as a way to improve our lives a Christians. Now, in Praying the Truth, Barry explores how our friendship with God can transform personal prayer. The book grew, in part, from Barry’s decision, during a retreat in 2010, to ask God every day “What do you want of our friendship?” That practice resulted in an almost immediate heightened awareness of God’s presence and love. Barry recalls being frustrated to find himself distracted while conversing with God, then being inspired to bring the distractions into the conversation. “When I began to talk to God about my distractions, they were no longer distractions, they became openings to dialogue and greater transparency with God,” he writes. From there Barry explains the simplicity of conversational prayer, devoid of the human tendency to explain personal issues, blame others, and search for solutions. God, he writes, is not interested in listening as we talk to ourselves and try to figure out how God might respond. Steps Barry takes to move from a one-way attempt at prayer to a dialogue with God include (1) finding a place relatively free of distractions (2) asking God to help him pay attention, and (3) asking what God wants from the relationship. After that he focuses on the Trinity and allows the conversation to unfold. As for God’s part of the conversation, Barry explains that he does not actually hear a voice, but rather “gleans” certain ideas which, on reflection, seem to ring true. He explains the discernment process and describes clues that the “voice” is his own, not that of God. I must stop here to point out that the above summary covers only the first few pages of Praying the Truth. The remaining chapters address “Telling God About” such subjects as your success, sadness, anger, sexuality, and sins. Throughout the work Barry continues to offer practical examples and suggestions for adopting this conversational prayer with God based on God’s desire for an honest friendship and dialogue with each of us.