How do we pray? Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life, but it often remains stubbornly mysterious. Rhonda Mawhood Lee, an Episcopal priest, writer, and spiritual director, walks us through the “how” of prayer and many diverse practices of prayer in her new book, Seek and You Will Find. Learn more about Lee and her book in this author Q&A.
How did the idea for this book develop?
A few years ago, I attended a meeting between members of the Society of Scholar Priests and Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. The facilitator asked Scott what kinds of books he’d like to see members of the SSP write, and one of Scott’s suggestions was a book about how to pray. That resonated with me, because so many Christians have told me they don’t know how to pray, and don’t have anyone to teach them. I love to teach, and I have devoted a lot of time to learning to pray, so I thought I might write such a book. And after a while, I did.
What is your hope for this book?
I hope, first, that it gives the people who read it a sense of God’s great love for them and desire to keep company with them. And then, second, I hope it helps readers see that there are many faithful ways to pray, and maybe feel inspired to try a few. Finally, I hope that by leading people to prayer, the book helps to spread God’s loving, resurrecting power further into the world.
Which of the prayer practices in this book was easiest or most familiar? What about a practice that was particularly difficult or new to you?
Well, I’ve just about given up on ever doing yoga. I mean, I might, one day, but I’m not counting on it. It just doesn’t draw me.
On the whole, though, I appreciate and use a variety of different practices. The Daily Office, contemplative prayer, Ignatian contemplation, the Jesus Prayer, the rosary (more recently), doodling, walking prayers, lectio divina…I do them all at different times, and I’m glad they’re all available to me.
What surprised you the most while writing this book?
The fact that I managed to write it at all, in the midst of the Covid pandemic. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to focus, given everything that was going on in the world, and the heightened level of anxiety that was present in just about every human interaction. But writing the book ended up being something of an oasis. Thanks be to God.
Where do you typically write?
I often write at my favorite coffee shop, Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, North Carolina. I’m lucky to have space at home to write, both inside and outside on our back porch (which makes a cameo in the book as a place I like to pray). But I can write just about anywhere, including airplanes, public transportation, and public libraries.
What is your favorite prayer?
The psalms. That may not be a fair answer, since there are 150 of them and you asked for a favorite, but the psalms are the prayers I have returned to over and over, in sorrow, in contrition, in joy, and in questioning and seeking. They are my true friends and teachers, and they connect me to spiritual ancestors and to Jewish and Christian siblings today. And to Jesus, who prayed them too.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I am praying for you. Truly. In intercession and with thanksgiving.
Seek and You Will Find is available on the Forward Movement website. Read a sample or order your copy today.