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A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer [Secure eReader]
eBook by Roberta C. Bondi

eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: In many ways the Lord's Prayer is the most fundamental of all Christian prayers. It was given by Jesus in response to his disciples' explicit request that he teach them to pray, and throughout the period of the early church, along with the creed, it was regarded as a basic catchetical text. For a large number of people in our own period, however, trying to pray this prayer in any meaningful way is fraught with difficulties. Roberta Bondi contends that christians are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, and that the Lord's Prayer, prayed honestly from the places we really are, is a basic tool to help us do it. A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer is not an exegetical book; rather the reflections in it, which draw from the author's own experiences, teaching, and study of the early church, are presented in a series of letters to a fictional friend. In these letters Bondi addresses many of the issues that make praying the Lord's Prayer difficult. At the same time, she helps readers use the prayer as a means of helping them love God, neighbor, and self. An excellent resource for personal spiritual growh and development, this volume is also well suited for adult study groups and is an ideal text for courses in Christian Spirituality, Theology, Worship, and Pastoral Care.

eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2003


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Preface

"Our-Father-who-art-in-heaven, hallowed-be-thy-name, thy-kingdom come, thy-will-be-done-on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven." After "Now I lay me down to sleep," this was the first grown-up prayer I ever learned to pray, and I imagine it was for a large number of the readers of this book, too. When I was a pig-tailed six-year-old still in knitted yellow pajamas with the feet in them, my mother taught me its words as a bedtime prayer. Apart from "power" and "bread," which I had always understood, and "kingdom," which I had learned about through reading fairy tales, I had very little sense of what I might be praying about.

Even as an adult I used to have problems with it. I may have studied Jesus' prayer for its original context and its meaning in that ancient context. I may have worked hard to learn how it has been interpreted theologically through the Christian centuries. I was certainly accustomed to praying it in public worship. I often heard myself reciting the words to it after I'd gone to bed for the night. In spite of everything, however, I rarely found myself paying attention to the way in which the meaning of what I was praying intersected with my own experience of God, myself, and other people.

Exactly how this came to change I cannot really tell you. I suspect it had a lot to do with the kind of understanding of the Christian life and prayer that I have learned from the Fathers and Mothers of the ancient Christian desert whom I study and teach. What I can say for certain, however, is this: for the last few years the Lord's Prayer has been one I cannot do without. It is not that I think about each word every time I say it; I often still pray it by rote -- or perhaps I should say, with my body more than with my brain. Nevertheless, this is not always true. The Lord's Prayer has become my own, to form me, challenge me, console me, push me, anger me, sometimes even to make me laugh.

In many ways the Lord's Prayer is the most fundamental of all Christians' prayers. It was given to us by Jesus in response to the disciples' explicit request that he teach them to pray, and throughout the period of the early church, along with the creed, it was regarded as a basic catechetical text. For so many of us in our own period, however, praying this prayer is fraught with difficulties. Apart from the problems caused by its very familiarity, some cannot get past the first-century language to pray it in the present. Some cannot separate it from oppressive childhood experience. Others struggle in themselves against painful images of God and power which the language of the prayer evokes for them. Others, still, are simply bored.

It is my contention in this book, however, that Christians are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, and the Lord's Prayer, prayed honestly from the places in which we really are, is a basic tool to help us do it. This is not an exegetical book; we are blessed with a wealth of these already. Rather, what I have written in A Place to Pray is drawn from my own life experience, from theological reflection on what I believe the early church has to say to us, from mulling over what seem to me to be certain key passages of scripture, and from the experience of my own prayer. I have certainly not been exhaustive. In fact, you yourself might have picked out very different things to write about. I will be very happy with what I have written, however, if only it prompts and supports you in your own equivalent reflection.

Each of the following chapters is written in the form of a letter to a friend, who I like to imagine is also you, the reader. In these letters I attempt to address many of the issues that seem to make praying Jesus' prayer difficult for us today. At the same time, I try to find a way to pray the prayer as a means for healing our abilities to love God, the neighbor, and ourselves. Writing about it has helped me. I hope most sincerely that in the reading of it you will find some help, too.

So many people have supported and helped me with this project. Amy Aitken, Pam Couture, Tere Canzoneri, Marian Dolan, Carl Hall, Bill Mallard, John Mogabgab, Bobbi Patterson, Don Saliers, and my sisters at St. Benedict's in St. Joseph, Minnesota, as well as my many students at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

Caroline Bynum, as usual, was a pillar of the earth, without whose encouragement I could hardly imagine myself working. Maggie Kulyk listened to everything in advance, read it, and then criticized it with intelligent sensitivity, and for all of this I am very grateful.

I especially thank three other people: my dear Melissa, who both gave me permission to write about her cancer and our friendship and who taught me so very much about living as a human being; Richard, my companion and husband; and of course, Ulrike Guthrie, my kindhearted, always competent editor at Abingdon Press.

Copyright © 1998 by Abingdon Press


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