There are dozens of ways to slice and separate people of faith. Sometimes, for example, I think of them as falling into two groups: spiritually minded souls who pray and spiritually minded souls who don’t.
Those who do pray tend to have a personal relationship with deity.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fit squarely in that group.
That’s why many members of the church will see the new book “A Year of Powerful Prayer” (Deseret Book, 409 pages, $17.99) as something of a godsend.
It is a book of days, at heart; with a short insight about prayer for each day of the year — 365 in all.
The people who compiled the anthology aren’t named. And except for a brief name line at the end of each entry, there is no index to show how many times an author appears in the book and no biographical information about any of them.
In most books of this sort such things would be seen as a flaw. But here, I suspect, the editors were simply trying to shine light on the act of prayer itself, not on the people who write and think about it.
The scanty information is, in essence, an act of humility.
As for the content, it stays within the LDS tradition, but manages to range rather far and wide.
Quaker author Richard Foster once listed more than 20 different types of prayer. And most of those types have found a home in LDS culture. Among others, Foster names covenant prayer, sacramental prayer, the prayer of the heart, intercessory prayer, healing prayer, unceasing prayer and, of course, simple prayer.
“In Simple Prayer,” Foster writes, "we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests.”
That is the type of prayer the writers in “A Year of Powerful Prayer” examine most.
When I first thumbed through the book at the store, I stopped here and there to take taste what several key contributors had to say on the subject. Great LDS leaders are included here — Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley, Ezra Taft Benson, Harold B. Lee, Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, to name a few. But there are also many of Mormon-dom’s sharpest minds and softest hearts, including Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Truman G. Madsen, S. Michael Wilcox, Chieko Okazaki, Anne Osborn Poelman, Patricia T. Holland and Marion D. Hanks.
Listing examples of what each of them has to say about prayer would take another dozen columns. Let me just that, as always with me, the insights of the late Elder Maxwell tended to stand in high relief.
As I finished the book, I thought how a favorite hymn claims, “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire ... the motion of a hidden fire ... the upward glancing of an eye ... the Christian’s vital breath.
The authors in “Powerful Prayer” deal with such impressions, then offer dozens of others.