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Compellingly honest book on prayer contrasts with another offering


These are the covers of "Holy Desperation: Praying as if Your Life Depends on it" by Heather King and "Prayer Seeds: A Gathering of Blessings, Reflections and Poems for Spiritual Growth" by Joyce Rupp. The books are reviewed by Rachelle Linner. (CNS)

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"Holy Desperation: Praying as if Your Life Depends on It" by Heather King. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2017). 224 pp., $13.95.

"Prayer Seeds: A Gathering of Blessings, Reflections and Poems for Spiritual Growth" by Joyce Rupp. Sorin Books (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2017). 205 pp., $15.95.

Heather King is a wonderful writer who, in "Holy Desperation," gives us a contemporary rendition of classic Catholic asceticism.

Her story -- a recovering alcoholic who gave up the practice of law to embark on a full-time vocation as a writer -- would be compelling enough as a human memoir. But what she has done in this remarkable book is more impressive. King, who entered the church in 1996, has allowed us to see the contours of her prayer life and the daily discipline that led her to a life of service.

The book begins with the prayer of desperation King uttered from the depths of 20 years of alcoholism, an acknowledgment of defeat and the utter need for God's help. The kernel of her wisdom is the recognition that "genuine spiritual awakening seems to consist in a disappearance, however temporary, of self."

This insight, rare among contemporary spiritual writers, is what makes her an authentic practitioner of prayer. "I began to see that the purpose of a relationship with God, of prayer, wasn't to 'be good.' It was to help out."

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