In the run up to Lent, I turned my attention to two books of prayer specifically for women that the author, Marion Stroud, had sent to me a few months ago. As I dipped into them I found they spoke to me deeply, certain prayers resonating in my heart in particular.
Lent is a great time for slowing down, reflecting and concentrating on prayer – and I think these books could be great companions for that process.
"It's just you and me, Lord" is the one that probably touched me most. Organised into sections such as 'A woman within', 'A woman and marriage', 'A woman and her children', 'A woman and her friends', 'A woman at work' through to 'A woman growing older', there is definitely something for everyone in its pages.
Similarly, 'Dear God, it's me and it's urgent' is a collection of prayers "for every season of a woman's life". Using the same format, the book includes some of the same section titles, though none of the prayers are repeated between books.
This book includes prayers for some very specific everyday situations, such as a bride's prayer, retirement and shopping with a daughter.
Marion explained to me why she organised the books as she did: "These books aren't intended to be read straight through, but dipped into, savoured and either provide inspiration for the reader's own prayers, or give them words when they can't express all they want to say.
"I divided them into sections, and although there are prayers for marriage and motherhood, not every woman experiences those roles, so they are only a small part of the book. I have also included life areas common to us all – prayers for work, for church life and life's later years; the dark days as well as life's joyful celebrations."
Indeed in the introduction to this first book, Marion indicates that: "Some of the topics I have written about in these pages spring from own experience, but many are rooted in the pain and challenges faced by others." She talks about the fact that sharing difficulties with one another is the best way of growing as: "We challenge each other's presuppositions and get fresh glimpses through the eyes of a trusted companion."
And it is these fresh perspectives that jump off the page. The depth of emotion, honesty and experience that drips from the pages is immense – and it feels like an honour to be a party to them.
Marion also includes some brilliant quotations and Bible verses alongside the prayers, making these into wonderful gift books too.
I asked Marion how she came to write prayer books:
"The honest answer is 'Because I was asked to'. I've written 26 books all told and in every case, except for the three children's stories and these books of prayers, I was looking for a book to meet a need, couldn't find what I wanted, and researched and wrote it myself. You know the old adage about 'Fools rushing in...'
"'Dear God it's me and it's urgent' was different. A publisher was launching a new imprint and wanted a book of prayers as part of his list. I almost said 'no' because I'm not from a liturgical tradition and don't often use written prayers myself. Then I remembered Marjorie Holmes, whose 'Apron Pocket Prayers' had been hugely successful in America during the 70s and 80s. More a conversation with God than formal prayers, they had helped me a lot at the time, and so I decided to try writing in that style. That first book sold very well in the United States and the American publisher asked if I would like to write another title in the same format. This is how 'It's just you and me, Lord' came into being.
Marion also revealed how personal some of the prayers are to her:
"Most of the prayers are based on real-life experiences – my own or other people's. 'Burning still' (from 'Dear God it's me and it's urgent') reflects the pain of seeing my beloved mother-in-law losing sight, mobility and mental clarity in her last few years, but also rejoicing in the way that her faith shone through, despite her difficulties. 'Lost and Found' is based on the terrible moment when I discovered I'd left my infant son outside the house and driven off without him [!] and 'The Suitcase' ponders on why it is that we pray for missions and missionaries but so rarely invite overseas students into our homes (both from 'It's just you and me, Lord').
Published by Monarch Books these inspirational books are perfect for individual or even small group reflection – why not consider buying them for a friend to use during this Lent period or purchase them for Mother's Day gifts?