Do men pray? Should they?
Brian McLaren argues, in the introduction to a new prayer book for men entitled Men Pray: Voices of Strength, Faith, Healing, Hope and Courage, that they should. “There are times known to all of us,” he says, “when what life demands of us – patience, courage, wisdom, forgiveness, backbone – goes beyond the resources we can muster. We will either collapse or snap under the gravity of those demands, or we will open ourselves to a strength beyond our own to bear up under them” (xvi). McLaren’s apologia for praying men is well worth the price of this new volume, it frames the diverse collection of prayers and poems for men that comprises the bulk of the book.
Beginning with a deeply personal story of watching his devout grandfather pray, he comes to the realization that neither he nor his grandpa before him knew how prayer works, but rather the impulse to pray is borne of a humility that recognizes that the world’s needs go far beyond what any individual can bear. And in this recognition, we turn to God and lift up our family, friends, neighbors, and the pain and struggles of the world. McLaren concludes:
If men like us don’t pray, where will emerging generations get a window into the soul of a good man, an image of the kind of man they can aspire to be – or be with – when they grow up? If men don’t pray, who will model for them the practices of soul care – of gratitude, confession, compassion, humility, petition, repentance, grief, faith, hope and love? If men don’t pray, what will men become and what will become of our world and our future? (xvii)
The prayers found in the pages of this book, are a diverse lot, representing a wide swath of faith traditions – Hindu, Jewish, Sufi, Native American, Christian and more – and an even wider swath of history from Marcus Aurelius to the present. The overall thrust of the prayers does tilt toward the Christian tradition, but the Christianity reflected is – to borrow a phrase from McLaren’s work – a generous orthodoxy that is warm and hospitality to those of other faith traditions. The poems are categorized into five chapters that represent key virtues essential to manhood: faith, courage, healing, strength, and hope.
Some of my favorite prayers (and poems) in this collection include: in the faith chapter, “When Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins and “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace,” a prayer attributed to St. Francis, but actually of a much more recent origin; in the courage chapter, one of Thomas Merton’s most recognized prayers, which begins “MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going” and “Faith Poem” by Walt Whitman; Ted Loder’s poem that begins “I’m impatient, Lord” in the healing chapter; “A Sioux Prayer” by Chief Yellow Lark and “My Prayer” by Tagore in the chapter on strength; in the final chapter on hope, we find a wide variety of prayers of blessings – a house, daughters, a marriage, even a car – and one of my favorite poems, Robert Frost’s “A Prayer for Spring.”
Men Pray, is a helpful resource for guiding men of diverse faiths into a prayerful life. It would make a wonderful gift for Fathers’ Day or for sons, nephews or other male friends in your life. It also would be a wonderful conversation starter about prayer in a men’s group in your faith community or neighborhood, and particularly so if the group was inter-generational. May we become the good, faithful and compassionate men that the world requires!
Buy “Men Pray: Voices of Strength, Faith, Healing, Hope and Courage” here.
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