Book Review: Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

January 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm Leave a comment

Beginning to PrayBeginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read this book many times. It is best described as an ‘introduction’ to contemplative prayer. What is contemplative prayer? I doubt that I am the best person to attempt a definition, but it is prayer that seeks a resting in the presence and reality of God, a perception of God with the spirit, as opposed to a simple listing of needs.

The late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom calls himself a ‘beginner,’ with the reader/hearer. He begins by reminding his hearers that prayer is like any relationship; both parties are free. When we do not sense God’s presence and are frustrated, we need to remember that prayer is not a mechanical action to get a desired response from God. If we are approaching prayer in a mechanistic way, we should not be surprised if we do not sense God’s presence. The book is designed to help one begin to approach God in relationship. It’s not a ‘how-to’ manual to achieve desired results.

Bloom’s anecdotes are wonderful gems. I have used many in my sermons: the time a young girl approached him after a sermon and said, “Father, you must be an appallingly evil man.” ‘I am an evil man, but how did you know this?’ “Because you have described our sins so completely that you must have committed them all yourself!” Fr. Bloom uses this anecdote to soften the blow as he describes the presumptuous way we often approach God in prayer. These and many other anecdotes are delightful illustrations of the Christian life.

The only reason I gave this book four stars is that the audiobook does not include the introduction which I had in my printed versions (two of which I’ve given away.) In the introduction, Metropolitan Anthony tells his story, as a child of Russian emigres who ended up in France and then in England, becoming a priest while working as a doctor and becoming the Metropolitan of England. This helps us to understand some of the book: a man steeped in Russian culture using English cultural references to explain his story. The narration is a bit prosaic for the subject matter, as well. Nevertheless, download this book and listen to it in the car, or pick up a copy. It’s for the beginner, from wherever you’re beginning today.

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