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Fr. Jim Martin on the Many Different Ways to Pray


Jesuit priest and Editor of America Media, Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. discusses his new book, “Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone.”

Fr. Jim explains why he wrote about prayer. “I wrote the book because people tend to think that they’re not holy enough or not good enough, or that nothing happens when they pray … I wrote it for people who struggle with that and think that someone else is praying better. So I discuss what really happens when you pray.”

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“You can be silent with God in prayer. I use the example of walking along the beach with a friend or spouse. You’re just enjoying the view and you’re saying nothing. ‘Nothing’ is happening in the relationship, but there’s still some deep communication going on. So I talk about lots of different ways to pray. There’s one-on-one prayer, imaginative prayer, prayer in nature, Lectio Divina, examination of conscience. There are different ways of prayer for different people. Not everybody likes the same thing, which is okay.”

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As a spiritual director, Fr. Jim is often asked about praying well. “I’ve really poured into this book as much as I know about prayer,” he says. I want it to be a kind of take-along spiritual director. I also wanted to address a particular topic: why God doesn’t, or why it seems like God doesn’t answer our prayers. I thought that was essential…  I also talk about emotions, memories, feelings, insights, words, phrases that come up in prayer. I feel like that is passed over in a lot of spirituality books… by the end of the book, I hope that a person feels that they’re not only invited to pray, but equipped to pray.”