Beginning to Pray
Hailed both by Catholics and Protestants, it was written by an Orthodox Archbishop for people who had never prayed before and has been read and loved by persons at all levels of spiritual develop-ment.

Beginning to Pray Details

TitleBeginning to Pray
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 19th, 1994
PublisherPaulist Press International,U.S.
ISBN-139780809115099
Rating
GenrePrayer, Religion, Spirituality, Theology, Christianity

Beginning to Pray Review

  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    Accessible but not simplistic. A welcome and far cry from the rote spiritual pablum I was raised on regarding prayer in daily life. Bloom explains that prayer starts (and often ends) in silence, an attitude that echoes much I've read about meditation.My favorite passage describes an elderly French peasant who spends hours on end every day sitting quietly in the village church, apparently doing nothing. Perplexed, the priest finally asks the old man what he's doing. He replies, "I look at Him, He Accessible but not simplistic. A welcome and far cry from the rote spiritual pablum I was raised on regarding prayer in daily life. Bloom explains that prayer starts (and often ends) in silence, an attitude that echoes much I've read about meditation.My favorite passage describes an elderly French peasant who spends hours on end every day sitting quietly in the village church, apparently doing nothing. Perplexed, the priest finally asks the old man what he's doing. He replies, "I look at Him, He looks at me, and we are happy." Charming but also revealing of the Bloom's view of prayer as an act of patience above all.I would've liked to have read this quietly encouraging little book 30 years ago, but such was my impatience and youthful arrogance back then thatI doubt it would've had much impact. (middle age does have some benefits)
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  • Theron Mathis
    January 1, 1970
    Beginning to Pray is a wonderful little book that is simple to read and opens up a world of prayer that is a beautiful encounter with God. Met. Bloom writes very complex ideas into truly simple and wonderful language. There is a sense that Met. Bloom truly knows what it means to pray. The following link will give more info about Met. Bloom.It is difficult to summarize so much that the book presents. In fact, there are so many nuggets of truth, I imagine multiple readings over time would enhance Beginning to Pray is a wonderful little book that is simple to read and opens up a world of prayer that is a beautiful encounter with God. Met. Bloom writes very complex ideas into truly simple and wonderful language. There is a sense that Met. Bloom truly knows what it means to pray. The following link will give more info about Met. Bloom.It is difficult to summarize so much that the book presents. In fact, there are so many nuggets of truth, I imagine multiple readings over time would enhance its value. Here are several things that were especially meaningful to me as I read the book. 1. Prayer is not formulaic or ritualistic. By this I mean, that prayer is not some magic incantation that forces God to behave for us. It is an encounter and a relationship (26). Bloom makes this clear by saying that it can not be forced by us for there is nothing that we can do to make God interact with us. We want God to react and respond to our cries but he has much more justification to complain at our lack of response to Him. 2. Prayer is a relationship of love. This becomes true for us through the beatitude of poverty. All that we possess is a gift from God, and we possess nothing that we can keep. Every gift is a sign of God's love; holding onto possession takes us out of the realm of love (39-42). 3. Prayer turns inward. The inward journey of prayer is not a journey into myself but through myself toward God (46). It is a risk to go inward, because you strip away those things that you thought were real, this throws one into a crisis that only God can fill. 4. Stirrings of the heart teach us to pray. The prayers of the church teach us to pray, and Bloom gives excellent guidance in applying these to our lives. Whenever a prayer of the Church touches us deeply and stirs us, we should grab hold of this, learn it, pray it and live it. 5. Prayer must be lived. Words of prayer are words of commitment to God. Bloom makes an interesting statement that Christ is not going to be crucified for us every day, there is a moment that we must take up our own cross. When we speak to God we must be willing to live and commit to what we say.This text is so simple but has the power to transform your prayer life. In the words of the Fathers: "A Theologian is one who truly prays."
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  • Nate
    January 1, 1970
    Good book about one Orthodox bishop's reflections on prayer. Very personal, very honest. He had a strong emphasis on encountering God in doubt and darkness, especially when all of our formulations and images of God fail to match with reality. I appreciate the fact that he recognizes that sometimes God doesn't show up, and sometimes we have to wrestle with him in order to reach him. It's a real relationship, and prayer isn't just saying set prayers, nor is it just talking to God as if he were our Good book about one Orthodox bishop's reflections on prayer. Very personal, very honest. He had a strong emphasis on encountering God in doubt and darkness, especially when all of our formulations and images of God fail to match with reality. I appreciate the fact that he recognizes that sometimes God doesn't show up, and sometimes we have to wrestle with him in order to reach him. It's a real relationship, and prayer isn't just saying set prayers, nor is it just talking to God as if he were our imaginary best friend. Prayer is connecting with the reality of God's sustaining presence in every moment of life, being totally connected to the present moment in which we are living, and in which God is acting. "The realm of God is dangerous," says Anthony Bloom. "You must enter into it and not just seek information about it... The day when God is absent, when he is silent -- that is the beginning of prayer."
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  • Gene Stevenson
    January 1, 1970
    Teachings, theories, and ideas about prayer abound. And the gap between talking abstractly about prayer and the practice of prayer can be vast. In light of all this, one may very well wonder where God is and how one goes about communing with God in a genuine and meaningful way. Enter Anthony Bloom, a medical doctor turned priest who was part of the French resistance during WWII. As the title of this book suggests, Bloom's goal is to reflect on the basics of prayer, not starting with the words we Teachings, theories, and ideas about prayer abound. And the gap between talking abstractly about prayer and the practice of prayer can be vast. In light of all this, one may very well wonder where God is and how one goes about communing with God in a genuine and meaningful way. Enter Anthony Bloom, a medical doctor turned priest who was part of the French resistance during WWII. As the title of this book suggests, Bloom's goal is to reflect on the basics of prayer, not starting with the words we speak, which we're often tempted to think is the primary substance of prayer, but with the heart. By talking about the importance of applying to ourselves the first Beatitude ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") and embracing the reality of the Kingdom of God as something that dwells in us, Bloom sets the stage for very practical considerations regarding different forms of prayer (including spontaneous prayer, the use of pre-written - or more accurately, pre-prayed - prayers, and continuous prayer), an appreciative approach to each new day, and time management, topics that readers might not connect with prayer but which, under Bloom's tutelage, become clearly relevant. Perhaps his most important lesson is that what one prays one must strive to live up to. Rating: Close enough to 5 stars.
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  • Debbi
    January 1, 1970
    I read this when first became Orthodox and loved it. I gave a copy of it to my goddaughters for Lent and thought I'd read it again myself. It starts off a little slow and it just wasn't holding my attention. I had wondered what it was that made me love it so much, but then I got to the chapter titled "Knocking at the Door" and was captured by Met. Anthony's words. This isn't so much a book about how to pray as it is a book about drawing closer to God. Met. Anthony doesn't give us rubrics and exa I read this when first became Orthodox and loved it. I gave a copy of it to my goddaughters for Lent and thought I'd read it again myself. It starts off a little slow and it just wasn't holding my attention. I had wondered what it was that made me love it so much, but then I got to the chapter titled "Knocking at the Door" and was captured by Met. Anthony's words. This isn't so much a book about how to pray as it is a book about drawing closer to God. Met. Anthony doesn't give us rubrics and examples. Instead, he encourages us that prayer is an encounter and a relationship with God, and to begin that relationship we must be silent before Him. A simple but powerful book and I plan to pick it up again and again.
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  • Elizabeth White
    January 1, 1970
    This is a hard one to rate. I would give it 5 stars if you're evaluating it as a book for new Orthodox Christians who need an introduction to the Orthodox mind on prayer - fewer stars if recommending it for the one who is further along in knowledge and spiritual growth. I personally cherished this book when I first read it many years ago. And now, as is a habit of mine, I go back every once in a while to books such as this to remind myself of the basics.
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  • James Maxon
    January 1, 1970
    Anthony Bloom offers some unique and personal observations on prayer. Whether you follow Orthodoxy or not you are bound to come away with a better foundation in your own prayer life.
  • Maryam Kd
    January 1, 1970
    Anthony Bloom give some sincere advice in this book which makes it a great read for those new to the Orthodox tradition. "...learn by heart enough meaningful passages, from the psalms or from the prayers of the saints. Each of us is sensitive to certain particular passages. Mark these passages that go deep into your heart, that move you deeply, that make sense, that express something which is already within your experience, either of sin or of bliss in God or of struggle. Learn those passages be Anthony Bloom give some sincere advice in this book which makes it a great read for those new to the Orthodox tradition. "...learn by heart enough meaningful passages, from the psalms or from the prayers of the saints. Each of us is sensitive to certain particular passages. Mark these passages that go deep into your heart, that move you deeply, that make sense, that express something which is already within your experience, either of sin or of bliss in God or of struggle. Learn those passages because one day when you are so completely low, so profoundly desperate that you cannot call out of your soul any spontaneous expressions any spontaneous wording, you will discover that these words come up and offer themselves to you as a gift of God, as a gift of the church, as a gift of holiness, helping our simple lack of strength."
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  • David Withun
    January 1, 1970
    A short and simply amazing book. For Orthodox Christians, a wonderful guide for developing your relationship with God. For non-Orthodox, a beautiful and concise introduction to the Orthodox spiritual life. This book should be one of the first books that inquirers, catechumens, and other interested parties read when coming to the Orthodox Church. If your friends ask you about Orthodoxy -- hand them this book.
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  • Stephen Case
    January 1, 1970
    What we must start with, if we wish to pray, is the certainty that we are sinners in need of salvation, that we are cut off from God and that we cannot live without Him and that all we can offer God is our desperate longing to be made such that God will receive us, receive us in repentance, receive us with mercy and with love. And so from the outset prayer is really our humble ascent towards God, a moment when we turn Godwards, shy of coming near, knowing that if we meet Him too soon, before His What we must start with, if we wish to pray, is the certainty that we are sinners in need of salvation, that we are cut off from God and that we cannot live without Him and that all we can offer God is our desperate longing to be made such that God will receive us, receive us in repentance, receive us with mercy and with love. And so from the outset prayer is really our humble ascent towards God, a moment when we turn Godwards, shy of coming near, knowing that if we meet Him too soon, before His grace has had time to help us to be capable of meeting Him, it will be judgment. And all we can do is to turn to Him with all the reverence, all the veneration, the worshipful adoration, the fear of God of which we are capable, with all the attention and earnestness which we may possess, and ask Him to do something with us that will make us capable of meeting Him face to face, not for judgement, not for condemnation, but for eternal life.Beginning to Pray is a slender book, but it’s slender in the same way a blade is slender: it can still get into the cracks of your heart and pry them open. The book is conversational, a short treatise on prayer written by the Orthodox archbishop Father Anthony Bloom. It does not have a central thesis except perhaps this, which is carried in much of the ascetic tradition of Orthodoxy: that prayer is difficult and that it must be directed inward at one’s own heart. That it is a dangerous labor that cannot be entered into lightly. That there is a cost. Perhaps the most innovative point of the book (from the perspective of a former protestant) is that Bloom says prayer must be aimed into one’s own heart, that the door to the kingdom at which we must knock is within us and that we have to aim our prayers into our own hearts like an arrow. Prayers are not launched into the sky, hoping to hit God. He is closer than we know. So Bloom says we aim them into ourselves, hoping He meets us at the doorway of our heart. With that in mind, prayers must be words that are true and that can cut deeply. They need to be sound and strong, to get past the deadness of spirit and our own internal deafness. They have to pierce. Where does one find such prayers? They can, on occasion, be written, and (according to Bloom) they can very rarely be extemporaneous. But mostly they need to be mined from the scripture and the traditions of the Church.The other aspect of prayer that Bloom emphasizes is the practice of silence. To truly be able to pray, one first must learn to be silent. I had a privilege this past summer of a three day retreat, alone with a lot of spare time, and among other things I read this book and savored (and attempted to practice) the invitation to silence that it extended. I immediately began a re-read upon returning back home into the hectic, busy world, but I found the words that before had been an invitation now seemed almost a rebuke. Prayer must be hemmed with silence, Bloom says, and the silence that is not simply the lack of noise. It’s built up through time and practice. Yet such a thing seemed, upon returning home, pretty distant and unattainable.You need time with this book. I don’t feel I can do it justice in a summary, and I don’t really need to, as the book itself is brief and accessible. Instead I’ll just pull out a few of Bloom’s most relevant quotes:On humility in prayer:Humility [from the Latin ‘humus,’ fertile soil] is the situation of the earth. The earth is always there, always taken for granted, never remembered, always trodden on by everyone, somewhere we cast and pour out all the refuse, all we don’t need. It’s there, silent and accepting everything and in a miraculous way making out of all the refuse new richness in spite of corruption, transforming corruption itself into a power of life and new possibility of creativeness, open to the sunshine, open to the rain, ready to receive any seed we sow and capable of bringing thirty-fold, sixty-fold, a hundred-fold out of every seed.On letting go of expectation and desire:Outside the realm of “right,” only in the realm of mercy, can we meet God . . . Everything we taken into our hands to possess is taken out of the realm of love. Certainly it becomes ours, but love is lost . . . [A]s long as we have nothing in our hands, we can take, leave, do whatever we want.On prayer and action:We must each take up our own cross, and when we ask something in our prayers, we undertake by implication to do it with all our strength, all our intelligence and all the enthusiasm we can put into our actions, and with all the courage and energy we have. In addition, we do it with all the power which God will give us . . . Therefore prayer and action should become two expressions of the same situation vis-a-vis God and ourselves and everything around us.On praying continually:If we could be aware . . . that every human meeting is judgment, is crisis, is a situation in which we are called either to receive Christ or to be Christ’s messenger to the person whom we are meeting, if we realized that the whole of life has this intensity of meaning, then we would be able to cry and to pray continuously, and turmoil would be not a hindrance but the very condition which teaches us to pray.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    If I could give more than 5 stars I would. This is a book that ought to be read and then re-read every so often throughout one's life.
  • Matthew Hudson
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent introduction to prayer, perhaps most useful to those new to the practice or those (such as myself) who have never really been able to pray in spite of a religious upbringing, put off by the immense silence that greets them. Many other well intentioned books deal with the issue of silence and God's apperent absence by dedicating a chapter on the "Dark Night of the Soul," which is always referred to as a deep spiritual trial to be endured and overcome. Bloom takes a different tack. He as Excellent introduction to prayer, perhaps most useful to those new to the practice or those (such as myself) who have never really been able to pray in spite of a religious upbringing, put off by the immense silence that greets them. Many other well intentioned books deal with the issue of silence and God's apperent absence by dedicating a chapter on the "Dark Night of the Soul," which is always referred to as a deep spiritual trial to be endured and overcome. Bloom takes a different tack. He assumes his reader is beginning with the sense of God's absence, with His silence, and builds from there. This was a refreshing change of pace.He writes with great sympathy, in a true pastoral fashion, and offers simple steps to begin to pray. I found this book incredibly helpful, and I reccommend it to any Christian who is struggling with prayer.
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  • Valerie
    January 1, 1970
    In all humility, I am thankful to have been given this book to read. Father Anthony writes so clearly, patiently, and gently about prayer. He teaches ever so lovingly how to go into the stillness to find the One who made us, loves us, and desires a relationship with us if we knock, go inward, manage time, and address Him as Father. The two meditations on the Mother of God and Staretz Silouan at the end of the book are treasured templates for those who want to encounter a real relationship with t In all humility, I am thankful to have been given this book to read. Father Anthony writes so clearly, patiently, and gently about prayer. He teaches ever so lovingly how to go into the stillness to find the One who made us, loves us, and desires a relationship with us if we knock, go inward, manage time, and address Him as Father. The two meditations on the Mother of God and Staretz Silouan at the end of the book are treasured templates for those who want to encounter a real relationship with the living God. I highly recommend this to serious seekers. . .
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  • Shea Layton
    January 1, 1970
    Simple and accessible, even to a "spiritual but not religious" person, but deep insights from personal stories and wise illustrations. It is full of the kind of statements about spirituality that you might say "How do you even know that?" and yet your soul knows it to be true. A must-read for all those curious about the spiritual life and any Christain looking for deeper prayer.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    I had high expectations for this book before reading it... There were several important teachings, but I just didn't find the book to be as meaningful as I expected. Having said that, I may have read through it too quickly. This is certainly a book which should be read slowly with plenty of time for reflection. Nonetheless, I can't say it left much of a mark.
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  • Elliott Pardee
    January 1, 1970
    Unlike the "Jesus Calling" of our time, "Beginning to Pray" features a humble writing on the life of prayer and what it means to be in communion with God. Even when God feels so far away, Met. Anthony Bloom outlines ways to become more aware of Him and the attitudes that we should strive for in our own lives.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    A gem of a book! Loved this one!"The day when God is absent, when He is silent - that is the beginning of prayer."(Another random excerpt from the book that I really liked: "You may say 'Shall I have time to do it all?' I will answer you in a very Russian way: 'If you do not die first, you will have time to do it. If you die before it is done, you don't need to do it.'"
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  • James Ruble
    January 1, 1970
    A really great book! He puts even advanced steps on prayer into an organized guide and offers advise on how to start/improve your prayer life. I have a southern baptist background and really am surprised I’ve never heard of this book before!
  • Sylvia Jeronimo
    January 1, 1970
    Love books that make you feel like the author is sitting in your living room having a delightful conversation with you. Bloom’s simple unpacking of Jesus asleep on the boat during the storm, serene and peaceful, is brilliant. I can pray this way. I want to pray this way.
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  • J.
    January 1, 1970
    There's not much that truly blows my mind, but this short book did. Much to think about. Much to return to. I read this online through the Internet Archive, but I think a physical copy is absolutely merited.
  • Anca Lamse
    January 1, 1970
    Rich.
  • Michael McCue
    January 1, 1970
    Assigned reading for 1st year students at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, made a lot of sense to me then. We are always beginners, there are no experts when it comes to prayer.
  • Jan1243
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing I can say will do this book justice. It is, simply, profound and will change the way you view the act of prayer.
  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Some absolutely superb moments.
  • Tom Schmdit
    January 1, 1970
    This is my go to book on prayer or anytime I am not sure what to read next. Completely changed the way I look at prayer in general, and will never leave my bookshelf (unless I'm reading it).
  • Mary Jen
    January 1, 1970
    Accessible to Christians from all walks of life. As a 20th century holy person, he can give modern examples of distraction, isolation, and ways to solve the question, "How do I even start to pray? What do I say?" He emphasises quiet time as a way to alleviate the anxiety and loneliness that often comes from living in such a rushed world.
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  • Ci
    January 1, 1970
    A slim, simple and serene instruction on how to pray. Archbishop Anthony Bloom gave a candid account of his youth and his conversion, and his prior-career as a doctor. His advice on beginning to pray asks us to start with humility (with its root in "humus", the fertile ground), the emptying of one's ego and ambition, and the contemplative habit of being in the presence of divine.
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  • Nathalia
    January 1, 1970
    Truly, truly excellent. It was a life-giving read.
  • Raymond Browne
    January 1, 1970
    A profound and vital work on prayer from the Orthodox point of view but really for everyone.
  • Marc
    January 1, 1970
    This one took some time, in the sense that I read it in drabs and so I cannot give it an exhaustive review at this time...it didn't grab my attention as consistently as 'Meditations on a Theme' or the likes of Merton's 'New Seeds...' unfortunately but when it did; it was great! ...Given Bloom's poetic and meditative style I do suspect it will reward re-reading so i'll come back to it; from what I recall, there are some fine arguments made for being really present to relationships in the time and This one took some time, in the sense that I read it in drabs and so I cannot give it an exhaustive review at this time...it didn't grab my attention as consistently as 'Meditations on a Theme' or the likes of Merton's 'New Seeds...' unfortunately but when it did; it was great! ...Given Bloom's poetic and meditative style I do suspect it will reward re-reading so i'll come back to it; from what I recall, there are some fine arguments made for being really present to relationships in the time and place we find ourselves in. This is the sort of Incarnational Theology I find intellectually honest and his exposition on names and naming near the end of the book was also the most lovely Theological writing; including his really interesting reference to Saint John's Gospel and our secret names, known only to God.
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