Book Review – Flee, Be Silent, Pray
When I read these words in the Introduction to Flee, Be Silent, Pray, I knew I had to read the rest of the book: “Evangelical Christianity in America is an anxiety factory. As a life-long evangelical, I’ve absorbed the notion that I can never do enough for Jesus. Words like discipleship and obedience carry connotations of trying harder, doing more, and always bumping up the commitment another notch. Evangelicals affirm grace and ‘faith alone’ in theory, but we also worry that we can never pray enough, serve enough, evangelize enough, read the Bible enough, or ‘grow’ enough to satisfy God. Too many sermons revolve around an obligation to do more things or to try harder.”
Author and freelance writer Ed Cyzewski, who grew up Catholic and is now an Evangelical, draws on the Catholic and early Church traditions of contemplative prayer to write this informative and challenging primer on prayer and spiritual formation. He uses Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart as a guide. He points out that while most of us understand the importance of prayer, studying Scripture, and meditating on Scripture, we often miss the vital fact that it is God’s love that is the foundation of all Christian spirituality. Making space for daily contemplative prayer, he writes, helps us learn to rest in God’s Presence.
This is a switch for many of us – we’ve been programmed to do, do, do…serve, serve, serve…but this book calls us back to abide, abide, abide.
At nine chapters long, Flee, Be Silent, Pray is not a long read, but it is one that you will want to take your time working through. Cyzewski leads us through these important topics:
• Chapter 1- Praying with Scripture – learning to abide in Christ, using Scripture to focus ourselves.
• Chapter 2 – Cheating at Prayer – avoiding repetition while learning to treasure recited prayers.
• Chapter 3 – Mindfulness for Anxious Evangelicals – how to use Ignatius’ Examen to help yourself be mindful of God’s Presence throughout your day
• Chapter 4 – Fleeing to the Freedom of Solitude – why solitude matters, and why it is so hard for us as evangelicals
• Chapter 5 – Be Silent – finding freedom from distraction and learning that silence isn’t an accident.
• Chapter 6 – Repeating Silence – learning how to do “centering prayer.”
• Chapter 7 – Expectations for Prayer – learning to pray without condemning yourself or becoming discouraged and quitting.
• Chapter 8 – Evangelicals Don’t Have Dark Nights of the Soul – yes, we do. This chapter talks about what they look like and how they help us grow.
• Chapter 9 – Do Evangelicals Actually Have Hope? – yes, we do. But our hope is in Jesus, not in correct doctrine.
In Chapter 9, Cyzewski writes these words, which stunned and challenged me: “There is no escape from the darkness, doubts, and uncertainty of life. We cannot live in perpetual victory, forever advancing toward spiritual dominance where we’ll emerge as the sole guardians of truth and biblical knowledge. That quest is a fool’s errand that generations have failed at. I have seen one evangelical friend after another run empty as they realized that their faith largely rested on affirming doctrinal statements without a structure of spiritual practices that could keep them grounded before God. One evangelical generation after another earnestly studies the scriptures in search of Jesus, trying to get past the fact that Jesus said studying the scriptures is not the same thing as pursuing him.”
If you aren’t afraid to have your thinking about prayer and about your relationship with Jesus challenged and stretched, then I highly recommend this book. I’m still mulling over some of the things I read in this book a month ago, and I will be re-reading it because I know there’s more still for me to mine from it.
You can purchase the Kindle edition here. At $2.99, it’s well worth it!