Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul by David Brazzeal.
The word ‘gourmet’ should bring to mind a person with a discerning palate who enjoys fine dining.
David Brazzeal successfully employs the metaphor of a gourmet with the activity of praying. I acknowledge the title of the book is actually a simile.
Brazzeal has served with International Mission Board in Brazil, Guadeloupe, Quebec, and France where he now lives. His book confirms (23) what his website states: “he loves nudging those who are creative toward deeper spirituality and those who are spiritual toward heightened creativity.”
This book is divided into three parts, each of which develops the metaphor.
Part 1 sets the stage, entrenching the parallel of gourmet dining and prayer with some autobiographical experiences, experiments, and insights. He establishes a foundation for his metaphor by blending elements of appetite and taste, creativity and imagination, with the biblical theme of dining with God and the activity of praying.
Part 2 is the bulk of the book. In it, the author guides the reader through the “many possible prayer ‘courses’” (41). He selects eleven ‘courses’; some familiar, others less so. They are praising, thanking, confessing, blessing, observing, lamenting, meditating, contemplating, asking, interceding, and joining.
Each chapter touches on description, example, and encouragement – enough to sample each ‘course’. A variety of exercises are proposed which are designed to engage senses, postures, motions, locations, objects, art, music, and imagination.
Some of these exercises may be a bit ‘artsy’, even edgy, for some, but they are consistent with the expressed purpose of developing a person’s creativity and spirituality.
Part 3 includes two chapters that deal with settings, one of which is titled “Eating on the Run,” the other “Dining with Friends.” The first is about “finding your own miracles in the mundane activities of everyday” (157); the second explores aspects of more intentional and communal prayer. The final chapter is “Clearing the Table” which confirms the enduring influence of praying in the lives of those who pray.
I found myself moving between relishing and rejecting. That’s probably no different than enjoying a delicious entrée, yet baulking at escargot – you may delight in one and leave the other.
I mention four criticisms.
First, each chapter has statements emphasized in a font that is different, larger, and yellow. The choice of color is unfortunate. The yellow words disappear against the glossy white background.
Second, I was unable to find the author’s meaning of “spiritual” or “spirituality” (e.g., 8, 58, 67, 69, 74, 78) – words that are often far too pliable to writer and reader. Theologian Gordon Fee declares that “... spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ).” If this is what Brazzeal means I am content, but a brief definition of this term would be useful to determine whether we agree.
Third, there may be exercises or explanations to which a reader may object. An example is centering prayer (113-117). I appreciate the concept of being still and knowing God (Psalm 46:10). For me, centering prayer with its mantra-like qualities is ‘escargot-like’ and I’ll leave it alone.
Fourth, typographical errors are minimal. One caused me to smile in the ‘course’ on confession: “retribution” appeared where I think the author meant “restitution” (71). [Addendum: the author kindly let me know this was corrected in his second printing.]
These criticisms are eclipsed by the sheer creativity and freshness of this book on prayer. Even if you don’t agree with everything he writes, or don’t feel comfortable doing every exercise he suggests, there is still much to excite, expand, deepen, and enrich your prayer-life.
I’m glad I read it, and I’ll be back for ‘seconds’.
Rating: 4 stars of a possible 5.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!