Do you find yourself ready for a retreat because summer – or life in general – is getting to you? Does life feel stormy, or are there clouds threatening the horizon of your heart? If so, a little spa time is just what you need! We often think of pampering our bodies when we are weary and heavy laden. Sometimes physical rest and relaxation is in order, and it truly helps us. But often afterwards, we get back home and into life again, and we find ourselves right back in a stormy, weary place, wishing we could return to the spa…
What would happen if we would choose to spend our “spa” time and energy on preparing to soothe our soul through prayer? We could then set up an all-encompassing prayer space that ministers to our body as well as our soul. We could also make a plan to restructure our life to include spending time in that space each day, praying.
But how would we go about creating such a space and implementing such a change? “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” offers solutions to this question. The book is full of reasons for us to bathe our souls in peaceful prayer. And it doesn’t simply scold us with reasons to straighten out our prayer life: it gently takes us by the hand, introducing us to practical means to do so.
This book is, in itself, a retreat. Each entry is simultaneously soothing and thought provoking. It is written thoughtfully, and every page is poetry which engages the mind while challenging the reader’s thoughts. Themed chapters help the reader think from a distinctly Orthodox Christian perspective about topics related to prayer. They are as follows: Mind…Body…Soul; The Five Senses; Your Prayer Plan; Inner Stillness; An Offering; The Hours; Tools for Therapy. (Readers will likely find the “Tools for Therapy” chapter to become the most visited chapter. It includes a few ideas for ways to invite your body to join in prayer, as well as pages and pages of prayers, ranging from Psalms for each of the Hours to morning and evening prayers.) The author’s near-exclusive use of lower case is intentional; whispering her ideas and findings instead of shouting them, enhancing their soft allure. The final pages of the book are supplements that include a reproducible prayer card for your daily prayer plan, pages of scripture verses to memorize and pray, and recommended books (featuring an important quote from each) for further growth.
In Orthodoxy, we often invite the world to “come and see” what The Faith is all about. The same applies to this book. Attempting to describe it is one thing: but experiencing it is something else completely. The author’s intent with the book is “to bring the hidden wisdom of early christian luminaries to those in the twenty-first century who may not yet have come to experience this tangible way to love your God, your neighbor, and yourself within the fabric of daily life.” (p. 108) She has succeeded. “Prayer Spa” is at once a tall drink of cool water on a hot day and a sturdy lighthouse in a stormy sea. You may wish to “come and see” for yourself.
Whether or not we adopt all of the ideas in “Prayer Spa,” let us embrace its challenge to be intentional in our prayers. Let us indeed commune with God daily, with our whole self, through prayer, thus nourishing our soul. This is the kind of “spa time” that we truly need. Anchoring our life in prayer brings calm and peace to our souls, even in the storms of life.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for sharing a copy with the AODCE so that we could read it and write this review.
Purchase your own copy here: https://paracletepress.com/products/prayer-spa
Here are a few gleanings from the book:
“you are a gifted creature
created in the image of God
given the gifts of mind…body…soul.
dip your toe into living water and drench your soul in prayer.
how can I begin?
begin with intention.
begin with practice.
begin with love.” (p. 12, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“the spa has offered therapeutic baths
for healing and purification
from ancient greece to modern times.
prayer is a preparation of your interior well
to receive God’s gift of grace, and to offer living water
from an abundant source to those around you.” (p. 18, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“determine to commit yourself to prayer every day.
enfold your life into the life of Christ
for the temporal and eternal benefits.” (p. 33, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“the beloved Jesus Prayer, in its radical simplicity
sums up the whole gospel.
the incarnation, the sovereignty of Christ, and our very salvation are all there.” (p. 44, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“remember you are a human being, not a human doing
—a child of God.” (p. 49, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“an oasis in time can materialize
by insisting on an annual personal prayer retreat.
discover a monastery, guest house, or quiet room
within your range—any secluded space will suffice—
and treat yourself to 24-48 hours of cloistered retreat
this is a solitary ritual for you and God alone
a time to pray, to journal, to rest
to read spiritual books, to quiet your mind to consider the year behind you and the year ahead.” (p. 58, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“on this swiftly tilting planet
where humans have fallen down before their Creator
century after century, in awe…
at times this “enlightened” society seems to have forgotten God.
praying the hours is an antidote to this forgetful world.” (p. 66, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)
“if you have children, let them catch you praying.
share these short remembrances of God with them.
let them discover your own yearning for prayer
as a treat you quietly prioritize each day.
remember, you too are a child of God, beloved.” (p. 69, “Prayer Spa: Ancient Treatments for the Modern Soul” by Jennifer Anna Rich)