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Review of pray like a gourmet

September 07, 2015
Jenna Smith
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cover pray like a gourmer

It's a terrible thing to review a book in which you are so personnally invested. I mean, one of the illustrated blessings in David Brazzeal's book, "Pray Like a Gourmet" is sculpted around my own name.

Jenna blessing

Isn't beautiful? Don't I make a wonderful muse? So, readers, consider yourself warned: both the author, David Brazzeal, and the illustrator, Willemijn de Groot, are very near and dear to my heart even if they are sadly far away geographically, and I have followed the ever-evolving creation of this book for the past two years now. This will most likely be a biased review.

The thing about books on prayer is that the poetic, mystical ones tend to be several hundred years old (which is fine if you can decipher the lingo that is bit far from our context. Some people can't wade through this) and the contemporary ones tend to be categorical and a little preachy (not that there's anything wrong with that...sort of).

Brazzeal made a real and authentic attempt to delve into the old traditions and open up people's prayer lives in the here and now of our busy, attention deficit, fast food society. Pray Like a Gourmet is gentle and soft-spoken, a quick and accessible read, and holds enough content for someone to enrich their prayer life, or at least their reflections around prayer, for years to come. He offers so many different types of prayers and exercises to fit all personalities, journeys of faith and cultures. He gives them impression of someone who is concerned with each individual person's prayer life and wants to make sure you are properly fitted with your own style.

It is not a perfect book: the chapter on lamenting felt a bit hasty and sometimes I got lost in all the suggested exercises (of course, that could be due to the fact that I read it through in two sittings instead of slowing myself down and actually do the exercises...probably proving Brazzeal's point that we are far too bent on binging our prayer lives than savouring them slowly).

Despite this, Pray Like a Gourmet is a great piece of art, both in its writing and in its beautiful presentation. I am thrilled that there will be readers out there who will discover the ancient Jesus Prayer, or Madame Guyon's theology of prayer thanks to David Brazzeal and Willemijn de Groot.

What makes me most happy about this final product is the journey taken to create it. I distinctly remember sitting in David and his wife Sanan's living room something like 14 years ago and him saying that he wanted to guide his community towards a spiritual life that was a metaphorical buffet. That his role would resemble that of a chef, offering different choices of prayer, reading, reflection, suited to each person's being and needs, diverse as they may be. And then he would sit back an enjoy watching them eat this delectable meal. So it would be fair to say that this book was not half-heartedly whipped out.

This was a carefully crafted, delicious, reflected dish, that has been simmering in David's soul for a long time.

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