Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Never Pray Again: Lift Your Head, Unfold Your Hands, and Get to Work

Never Pray Again: Lift Your Head, Unfold Your Hands, and Get To Work
Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, Nick Larson
Chalice Press
Paperback: 160 pages (also available for Kindle and other e-readers)

My big plan was to zip through Never Pray Again and post a review within days of receiving my copy. (Yes, I requested a paperback edition so I could scribble in the margins.) Well, that sure didn't happen. In fact, it couldn't because Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, and Nick Larson have written a book way too thoughtful and thought-provoking for a fast read.

Clark, Hagler, and Larson are passionate, articulate, wise, and witty advocates of faith-in-action (i.e., Gospel living). Here's how they explain their book's provocative title: [Long pull quote but worth the read as well as the typing out so that you can read it!]
"We named this book Never Pray Again because it is our conviction that prayer is one of these ideas that has too much baggage to do its job anymore. In our own lives, it needed to be set free from the rock imprisoning it before it could be much use.We noticed as we looked at the ancient liturgical structure of worship, and examined each type of prayer usually found there, that if we simply removed the word "prayer" we unleashed something vital and compelling. Instead of prayers of praise, you just have the imperative 'Praise!' Instead of praying your confession, you are urged to 'Confess!' Instead of pleading privately for help from God, you're compelled to publicly 'Beg!' ....
We have not tried to write a list of things to do, but rather to remove all the excuses we have for not doing what we already know we must. We encourage you to carve out less time for prayer and less time for spiritual practices that steal time away from going and doing." 
What you'll discover in Never Pray Again are short, engaging chapters that begin with a cautionary tale and end with one to inspire action. Each chapter includes "Experiments in...", questions inviting further action -- valuable for individuals as well as groups. Threaded throughout the book are the authors' very personal stories about moving into spiritual action, stories that are sometimes poignant, sometimes amusing, and always instructive.

Other reviewers (see below for links) have zoomed in on their favorite chapter. Given my long-time involvement with healthcare and interest in dying and death, it should come as no surprise that I found the chapters, "Heal!" and "Grieve!" especially compelling.

If you do anything in and around ministry with people who are physically ill, psycho-spiritually wounded, or managing the stigma living with disability, "Heal!" is a must-read chapter. In it, the authors challenge prevailing notions of what it means to be well or healthy. They also have at (persisting) spiritual nonsense about what God is/isn't/can/can't/will/won't do to "heal" people.

They continue this discussion in, "Grieve," this time taking on human projections about God's motivation for allowing and possibly even causing suffering. Even more insightful and valuable is the authors' commentary about how, because of what have become normative ways of managing (read: avoiding) dying and death, "we tend to be dysfunctional in grief." If you read nothing else, please read the section, "An Epilogue for Tears" (p. 117) in this chapter.

There's more, of course but I encourage you to discover it for yourself by buying Never Pray Again and getting down to it as soon as possible. Yes, even at the beach or poolside!

See what other enthusiastic reviewers have written:

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