Beginning to Pray

Beginning to Pray

by Anthony Bloom (1970)

This little book was almost overlooked. But the title seemed familiar. It had the same title as the excellent blog of Dr. Anthony Lilles , but then I vaguely recalled he had mentioned a book by this name in his Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden. So I picked it up. At under $10 and just shy of 115 pages, why not?

The first section is an interview with Bloom on his conversion from being anti-church and anti-Christianity to ultimately being an Orthodox Archbishop (this after a career as a medical doctor). Don’t skip this. It is longer than you would expect in a book of such short duration, but it is a worthwhile read.

Here are a couple of excerpts. First, from the chapter titled “Going Inward” are the first few lines:

I have said that one of the problems which we must all face and solve is: where should I direct my prayer? The answer I have suggested is that we should direct it at ourselves. Unless the prayer which you intend to offer to God is important and meaningful to you first, you will not be able to present it to the Lord. If you are inattentive to the words you pronounce, if your heart does not respond to them, or if your life is not turned in the same direction as your prayer, it will not reach out Godwards.

– pg. 55

And then from “Addressing God”:

A relationship becomes personal and real the moment you begin to single out a person from the crowd. That is when this person becomes unique in his own right, when he ceases to be anonymous. Someone has spoken of ‘the anonymous society’ in which instead of having names and surnames and qualities and personality, we are defined in general terms like ‘the ratepayers’, and so forth. In our relationships with people there is very often this element of anonymity: ‘they’. We speak in the third person when we feel someone can be easily replaced by someone else, because the relationship is functional, not personal, and this function can be fulfilled by someone else, while this person would not be replaceable by anyone else. In other languages I would have said that the relationship becomes real the moment when one begins to think of a person in terms of ‘thou’ instead of ‘you’. It does not require a change of language, it is an inner change. You know very well, I am sure, that one can have this ‘I’ and ‘thou’ relationship or an ‘I’ and ‘it’ relationship with someone.

Prayer begins at the moment when instead of thinking of a remote God, ‘He’, ‘The Almighty’, and so forth, one can think in terms of ‘Thou’, when it is no longer a relationship in the third person but in the first and second persons.

– pp. 99-100

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