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Praying in Black and White

Praying in Black and White by Andy and Sybil MacBeth is an important book on getting men to lead lives of prayer and learn some of the tools of prayer. In the book, Sybil writes one chapter and Andy another, dividing up between practices of prayer, obstacles, and joys of prayer. One of the sections that I found most helpful was Andy's chapter on How Men Learn. He writes, "An individual can practice most of the prayer methods suggested in this book, but learning them with a group can give us an ongoing network for encouragement and accountability" (27). This sentence in the book rang true to the core for me. In difficult times when prayer becomes a struggle and life hits you from out of nowhere, having a group for encouragement is essential. I especially like this part because guys have a tendency to draw back from groups, to go the lone ranger, when in effect, all this does is fester isolation and feelings of disappointment. Reaching out to others in the spirit of prayer is necessary for our spiritual and mental growth.

Secondly, I thought that Sybil's short chapter on prayer in the Bible brought to the surface an important point about prayer. She writes, "The Bible does not provide a complete instruction guide for how to pray. So if you are not entirely clear about how to pray, you have lots of company" (31). We often as Christians want an explicit command about how to pray from God's Word, and yet the Bible is not clear to give us minute details concerning prayer. Yet, I do think as Sybil mentions that the Lord's Prayer is great example of both instructions in prayer and the goal and purpose of prayer. However, my only critique of this chapter is that it could have included more substance about the kinds of people in the Bible who offered up their prayers. For example, we only have to look at Hannah in 1 Samuel to see a woman who had a heart of prayer for the birth of her son.

Chapter 12 on praying in the form of lectio divina was very helpful in seeing that prayer is not just one way phone call to God. In order to aid in prayer, meditation, reading and contemplation. This practice is helpful in recalling that our prayers are connected both to our minds and our hearts. Praying in this way causes our whole lives to be directed as praise to God. Secondly, praying the Scriptures brings with it the added bonus of taking to heart the words of God, memorizing his Word without the painstaking work of rote memorization. There is great comfort in knowing that we are in praying to God, he hears us and seals his Word in our hearts.

I have not thus far commented on the sections in the book regarding drawing and doodling prayers (or people to pray for, Scripture, etc.). I think this will be very helpful for many who need to expend the energy in a written picture form. In some ways, this practice of praying through drawing brings to the foreground the very things we need to pray about and reminds us of our Maker. Personally, I am more energized by writing down my prayers in a journal through words (maybe because my drawings are barely discernible). But, I think there can be great encouragement from praying in pictures for some people.

Overall, I thought this book was a good intro into prayer from a practical perspective for men. I think many will find encourgement in the Macbeth's call to pray in community, to pray with open heart and pen as well. The only drawbacks for me were the lack of material on prayer in the Bible and that the chapters seemed a bit short at times. I think this book will serve those who desire to worship God through prayer in a more powerful way.

Thanks to Paraclete Press for the review copy.


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