Where Jesus Prayed: Illuminating The Lord’s Prayer in the Holy Land, is an unabashed “love letter to the Holy Land and to all its pilgrims who travel there (in mind or in body) in hopes of seeing a deeper and truer glimpse of the One in whose steps we seek to follow” (ix). This devotional book is the fruit of a two-week journey she took with a group of practicing pastors to places connected with Jesus’s life and ministry. In it she shares her practice of approaching these sites through the lens of The Lord’s Prayer, something she found herself repeating often as she visited places from Capernaum to Megiddo to Jerusalem to Bethlehem. We go on the journey with her to experience how those familiar prayer words sounded in varied sanctuaries and locales.
“Shroyer doesn’t give us much introduction to herself, but she makes a trustworthy guide. A Presbyterian pastor, who self-describes as ‘half-Lebanese, half-WASP’ (81), Shroyer leads one of the most interesting ‘emerging’ communities in Dallas, Journey Church, as their theologian-in-residence. She is an author and blogger with a Princeton Theological Seminary pedigree and she is in demand as a speaker. What that means is that she is at home in settings as varied as classrooms to bars where some of her most interesting small group ministries take place.
Given that background, one might expect an edgy, idiosyncratic book. But if anything, Shroyer reaches back to some very traditional methods of devotional writing. Each of the 20 chapters begins with an historic and descriptive account of a site Shroyer visited, a biblical passage related to the site, and then Shroyer’s own imaginative reflections on how the locale worked with Jesus’s words to lead her to new understandings. The Lord’s Prayer is reprinted at the end of each chapter.
At times Shroyer can be Buechner-esque as when she imagines herself into the scene of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law: ‘Even in the midst of miracles, Jesus of Capernaum seems unflashy, as if healing were so integrally part of who he was that of course he spent time doing it here and there…I wonder if the very ordinariness of it, the fact that she just got up and moved right along into normal life as if nothing had happened, was so surprising and noteworthy and different that he [Mark] had to say it was like that or nobody would have believed it’ (10).
What we do have in this journey is Shroyer’s open heart and quick mind and her invitation to take an imaginative journey with her. At the end of the book we have also been given The Lord’s Prayer as a gift once more – fresher and more alive than when we began. Perhaps this prayer is the map that matters most – illuminating not only the Holy Land but every place where we hope to glimpse ‘the One in whose steps we seek to follow.’” —Alex Joyner, Englewood Review of Books, is the author, most recently, of A Space for Peace in the Holy Land: Listening to Modern Israel and Palestine