Friday, April 10, 2015

Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul

In the interest of full disclosure, I have known David Brazzeal, the author of Pray Like a Gourmet, since we were freshmen in college. I have also followed along on his blogsite of the same name and have participated in some of the activities and dialogue on that site. Also, it was my privilege to attend one of his prayer workshops (which he calls “prayer tastings”) where he elaborated upon his concepts of prayer. The workshop was done in the context of a shared meal to emphasize the “gourmet” aspects of his approach to prayer. In addition to food and instruction, there was music, interactive participation, and periods of quiet meditation. When David asked me to review his book, I was happy to do so and he sent me an advance copy to review. That being said, I must also say that Pray Like a Gourmet is one of the most complete and accessible volumes on prayer that I have read.

David Brazzeal shares some of
his "prayer recipes"
Beautifully illustrated, the book is organized in an intuitive manner that would make the book a wonderful guide for small group study or for individual practice. What struck me is how the author expands the notion of prayer and offers the reader a prayer guide that is borne out of his own deep longing for a more real and meaningful connection with God.

Just as a good meal will offer a full range to the palate from light to heavy,  from savory to sweet, Pray Like a Gourmet encourages the reader to experience a wide range of prayer practices. Brazzeal offers a number of “prayer recipes” from his own experiences. He describes many simple prayer activities designed to help one break out of his or her prayer-time rut. Throughout the process, the author encourages the reader to live with gratitude and to take note of the world in which we live. One example is his “Slice of life” prayer practice:

Take just one “slice” of your life—focus on a moment of transition, of confusion, of illness, of inspiration, of transcendence. Then begin to “thank” your way through all the details: the people, the events, the decisions involved at that crucial time. Feel free to express your gratitude however you feel at the moment: say it, sing it, draw it, write it, walk it, or eat it . . . the more variety, the better (and the more interesting).

Brazzeal advocates a number of different ways to practice prayer and meditation such as walking through the park and taking note of the people you see, doing a “museum meditation” at the local museum of art, or a “forest walk” to nurture a sense of wonder, praise, and gratitude.

A "prayer tasting" workshop led by the author of Pray Like a Gourmet

A quick glance at the Table of Contents will show the reader something of the range of prayer practices that the author presents: praising, thanking, confessing, blessing, observing, meditating, asking, interceding, etc. He even includes an important section on lamenting. Here the author very skillfully guides the reader in how to bring our sorrows and losses before God. The lament is a form of prayer we can find in scripture, but it is often not covered in your typical religious instruction.  It is certainly not addressed enough within the context of prayer and it is one more indication of the book’s authenticity – that it is not just the “nice and lovely” that we include in our prayers to God. Moreover, as the author points out very early on in the book, prayer is not just a matter of asking for things.

Having been to one of David Brazzeal’s Prayer Tastings, and now having read his book, I can heartily recommend Pray Like a Gourmet for individual or group study. The book also comes highly recommended by others who have previewed it, such as this quote from Brian McLaren: 

If I were a beginning cook, I would want a guide who was experienced, flexible, enthusiastic, and sensitive to the questions and insecurities of an absolute beginner. And if I were a beginner in prayer, I would want David Brazzeal to be my teacher. Even as someone who has prayed for most of my life, I found PRAY LIKE A GOURMET to be nourishing, delicious, and delightful.  

  Author: David Brazzeal
  Paperback: 192 pages
  Publisher: Paraclete Press (April 28, 2015)
  Language: English
  Price: $18.99
  ISBN-10: 1612616275
  ISBN-13: 978-1612616278
  Product Dimensions: 7 x 8.5 inches

About the Author

David Brazzeal makes his home in France where he enjoys warm baguettes from the boulangerie and fresh cheese from the marché. Since 1986 alongside his wife Sanan, David has worked with the International Mission Board in Brazil, Guadeloupe, Québec and France, playing a leading role in five innovative new churches. Whether writing poetry, creating guerrilla labyrinths, or electro-meditative music, his work is inspired by the synergy that exists between the spiritual and the creative. He loves nudging those who are creative toward deeper spirituality and those who are spiritual toward heightened creativity.


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