In the preface to "The Oxford Book of Prayer," anthologist George Appleton defends bringing out a collection of prayers. He feels the project is timely because of "the widespread interest in meditation, the reprinting of early English mystics and the turmoil of liturgical renewal following Vatican II."
The forces that prompted Gary R. Weaver, senior pastor at Wasatch Presbyterian, to publish his book of prayers - "Gentle Words in a Raging Storm," were more personal, however."The biggest struggle for me was deciding if I should publish them at all, since prayer is so intimate and personal," he says.
A Kansas boy with a first-rate education, Weaver recalls that it was a book of prayers that first sparked his own interest in religion.
"When I was a teenager, I saw those long monologues in the Presbyterian Church as cat-nap time," he says. "Then I came across a book of prayers by Malcolm Boyd called `Are You Running with Me Jesus?' I learned that prayer didn't have to be stiff and formal, that it could be gutsy and vivid and very real. The key was to reach down inside and ask myself what I really wanted to say to God."
Most people have some notion about how to write a letter or a poem or an essay, but the idea of writing a prayer for publication leaves them stymied. Nevertheless there's a rich tradition of "printed prayers" that ranges from the Psalms and the "Confessions of Augustine" down to our own day and the Christian songs of Bob Dylan and the poetry of Carol Lynn Pearson.
Weaver's book is simply the newest addition - and edition - in the canon.
"To `write' a prayer," he says, "you first have to be in a prayer mood, of course. It has to come up from the inside. Most of the prayers in my book were composed on Sunday as I meditated on my upcoming sermon."
There are prayers for faith, for various holidays and an extended section of prayers about suffering. There's even the prayer Weaver offered to open an International Balloon Festival.
The C.S.S. Publishing Co. in Ohio brought the book out in early January, yet the word "storm" in the title gives the book a real immediacy. The opening lines from a prayer for faith might have been uttered this morning, for instance:Great and Mysterious God
you come to us like the silent flight of the eagle,
as suddenly as a summer storm on the desert sands,
as imperceptibly as the wind charting the course of
large sailing ships.
Yet, because of our small faith, we cannot see you.
We look for you in giants; you show yourself in the
least of all.In his classic essay "The Essence of Prayer," Friedrich Heiler lists dozens of different human situations where prayer has been used, then ends his essay with these words:
"The historian and psychologist of religion can only be a spectator and interpreter of that deep and powerful life which is unveiled in prayer: Only the religious can penetrate the mystery."
Weaver's book is available at Intermountain Christian Bookstores or from Wasatch Presbyterian at 1700 S. 1700 East.