I should have read this book a really long time ago. Someone whom I admire and love gave it to me with a meaningful inscription in the front, telling me how much it has meant to them. I was younger then, and perhaps a lot less mature. Maybe I wouldn’t even have been able to appreciate it the way I now do.
Catherine Marshall is not exactly a name you hear thrown around these days, even among Christians. When I mentioned it in company, only an older woman lit up with recognition (and affection), which was not surprising. Marshall was a non-fiction, inspirational writer from mid-century up through the 1960s and 70s. Her most famous books were A Man Named Peter–one of several books about her husband, the pastor to the senate before his untimely death–and Christy, which was adapted to the screen in a popular 1990s series. Marshall wrote more than thirty books, altogether.
I can tell you, I have never been tempted to read Christy or watch the series, but now I wonder what I missed in my snobbery. Adventures in Prayer is just so simple and honest and straight-forward, and at the same time insightful and empathetic and empowering. I want to stay with Catherine Marshall, because she is so level-headed and wise, and she also wants me to come out on top. I can tell. I feel comforted and comfortable.
I grabbed Adventures in Prayer from the shelf because it was of the correct length for my Book-A-Day reading. While I read through the stack of books I had picked, we started a series at our church called “40 Days of Prayer.” Imagine that. The book, obviously, really fit into my life-at-the-moment. It acted as a supplement to the journaling, the sermons, and the small groups. So I was ready for it, and for me the timing couldn’t have been better.
But more than that, this is an excellent book. If I were to receive a request for recommendations for books on prayer, I would happily recommend this book and God Guides by Mary Geegh. There are plenty of great books I haven’t read, on prayer, but these two I have found to be important and–in their way–enjoyable. Perhaps “joy-bringing” is a better word for it. And challenging. And honest.
The only thing this book isn’t is an introduction to prayer. It would be best-suited for a Christian already fairly grounded in their faith. But I could be wrong. Each chapter concentrates of a different type of prayer. Each chapter, then, is full of anecdotes and personal experience, and ends with a sample prayer (which I found to be spot-on to use word-for-word). The types of prayer covered are asking, dreaming, helplessness, waiting, relinquishment, secret, blessing, and claiming. The subject matter is timeless, as are the truths, but there is a whiff of the old-fashioned about the book. Still, there are real gems to be found here.
“The characteristic position of childhood is that of simple asking” (p10).
“God uses our most stumbling, faltering faith-step as the open door to His doing for us ‘more than we ask or think'” (p13).
“…this hemming-in [is] one of God’s most loving devices for teaching us that He is real and gloriously adequate for our problems” (p18).
“…all of this goes on quite apart from man–little man who struts and fumes upon the earth” (p20).
“But when God’s other wing of adequacy is added to our helplessness, then the bird can soar triumphantly above and through problems that hitherto have defeated us” (p23).
“Hand your dream over to God then leave it in His keeping” (p41).
“Thus the Lord seems constantly to use waiting as a tool for bringing us the very best of His gifts” (p50).
“Waiting works. It is a joining of man and God to achieve an end, and the end is always a form of the Easter story” (p54).
“Gradually, I saw that a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer” (p61).
“Resignation lies down in the dust of a godless universe and steels itself for the worst …. But I’ll also open my hands to accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends. Thus acceptance never slams the door on hope” (p63).
“I know now that my prayers were not prayers at all, but accusations” (p67).
“Look squarely at the possibility of what you fear most” (p69).
“Secrecy helps us get rid of hindrances to praying with our spirit” (p78).
“God asks that we worship Him with concentrated minds” (p78).
“But the point is that self-righteous prayers or accusing prayers do not change men from bad to good. Only joyous love redeems” (p93).
“For the purpose of all prayer is to find God’s will and to make that will our prayer” (p111).
“He Who will not let us down also will not let us off…” (p112).