Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit by River Jordan — 352 pgs

River Jordan isn’t an evangelist or even a particularly religious person, yet when both of her sons are deployed at the same time, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, she feels as if her emotional world is crumbling. One morning during her quiet reflections, she resolves to begin praying for a different random stranger who crosses her path every day. As River begins this emotional journey, she realizes that the prayers she offers each day help not only the people she encounters; they also begin to help her heal as well. But it’s not easy to approach a stranger every day, and though she’s a successful author, River is more of a recluse than she’d like to admit. As her year progresses, she meets a tremendous variety of people and prays thoughtful and inspired prayers for each of them. The journey that River takes in opening her life and heart to the various strangers she meets is one of humbling power and delicate grace. Soon River begins to realize that we all need prayer more then we know. As she navigates her way through self doubt and shyness, she discovers that sometimes the act of blessing someone in prayer can be not only transformative but healing in its implications alone. This is the story of one woman who passed out blessings and was blessed in abundance as a result.

When I met River Jordan at SIBA this past September, she approached me with a big smile and gave me a friendly and warm greeting that I just couldn’t ignore. She had remembered me from the previous year and I was touched that she caught my eye and motioned me over to talk about her new book. When I discovered that she would be a featured author at the UCF Book Festival, I was instantly excited at the prospect of meeting her again. I knew that it was high time I took Kathy and Sandy’s advice and cracked open this book that would be sure to change my heart. And you know what? It did.

River’s emotional state when she discovers that both of her sons will be deployed was very interesting. Although she was overwhelmed with sadness and fear, instead of wallowing in those feelings, she made a resolution to turn herself outward towards the strangers she came across every day. Her reasoning was that if she needed prayer, how much more did the people around her need it? I found this reaction to be not only wonderful but miraculous at times. How is it that as humans, we can get so caught up in our own emotional mire that we lose sight of all the others struggling right alongside us? River never forgets that, and though she has to travel miles beyond her comfort zone, she is faithful to her resolution and carries on praying each and every day. I also found her method of choosing the strangers fascinating. She would just feel an intrinsic pull towards the person she should pray for, and most often, her instincts were right on target.

Now, I’m also not a woman who waves my religion like a flag over my head, but I do believe in the power of prayer, no matter what belief system you ascribe to. And while I was reading this book, I kept interrupting myself to say a little prayer here and there for people I knew who were in need of it. That’s the great thing about this book: It inspires its readers to really think about the people around them and to lift a selfless prayer into the ether and hope for miracles. I felt a closeness to River because I’m also not a person who would just walk up to a stranger and ask them how I could pray for them. However, I’ve noticed that since I finished this book, I’ve been taking notice of the people around me a little more fully and sending up silent prayers for them at the spur of the moment. I even stop to ask people their names and give them a greeting, whom others would ignore or even shun.

One of the greatest things about this book was the way that I could see River growing as the chapters progressed. I was also astounded by how recpetive most people were to hear that she would be praying for them. There were funny stories and sad ones and people that needed divine attention more than anything. But most people just needed that human connection: To be told that they matter, that someone was thinking about them and had the temerity to approach them to pray for them. The reactions varied wildly, and it was always intriguing to get River’s account of when her internal radar went off and what reaction her praying provoked. It was a quiet and elegant way for one person in the world to stave off indifference and cruelty; a homage to the broken hearts that pass us by everyday.

This book really changed the way that I look at other people. I’m no longer impatient when someone treats me rudely. I just sort of sigh and think they might need an extra prayer. I pray for people I pass by more than I ever did before, and I’m not saying that I’m going to start approaching people (!) but the thought has crossed my mind. No matter what background you come from or what you believe in, this is a book that will make you think and touch your heart. You don’t have to be a Jesus freak or even believe in God to get it. It’s about the power of positive thoughts put out into the world and how those thoughts change people. In a word: Beautiful.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

20 comments:

Beth F said...

I do believe in the power of positive thinking, even if I'm not much for traditional prayer. I can't imagine what it would be like to have two sons sent overseas at the same time.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This book is new to me, but it sounds like a book I would really enjoy. Thanks for reviewing this one!

TheBookGirl said...

Amen.
If everyone took just a few minutes a day to pray for someone in need, and then treated those they met with that same thoughtfulness, what a better world this would be.
Your review was inspiring Heather -- I am going to look for this one today,

Ti said...

I don't wave any religious flags either but like you, I also believe in the power of prayer. What a wonderful review of a book that I would not have noticed on my own.

bermudaonion said...

You know I adored this book! I think part of what struck me was that River came to realize that even people who look like they have everything under control need prayer. Tell River I said hi when you see her again!

Gina Gao said...

I adore this book! I really enjoyed reading it.

Good post by the way.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I love the idea of this book and I think I would really like it. I try VERY hard when a person treats me rudely or disrespectfully to imagine that they are acting that way for a reason, maybe they have a difficult situation in their personal life or whatever, and to not judge them or be rude back. But it can be hard at times! So I think this book would be a nice reminder for me to ALWAYS think that way.

and p.s. yes I still have to type two words. Damn you word verification.

Amy said...

I believe in the power of prayer although there was a time in my life, after a tragedy that really shook my world, when I completely gave up on God, prayer, religion, spirituality etc. I'm glad that didn't last especially after reading your review of River Jordan's book. Ms. Jordan shows how powerful prayer is and what it can do for the one praying and the one being prayed for. When you described how this book impacted you and changed your life and how you see others, I realized that I definitely have to read this book. River Jordan sounds like a very special woman, to be able to, in the midst of a very difficult time in her life, think of others and turn to help others. Remarkable and an important lesson.

Thank you Heather - It's taken me reading the reviews of Kathy, Sandy and you to clue in to how rich and powerful and important this book is. It finally sunk in...I can be a little impervious but eventually the message sinks in!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

It's interesting to see you talk abou this book Heather. I am reading Be The Miracle and in that book as well, the author touches upon the transformative power of praying for other people and reaching out and touching their lives in a different. It's interesting to see that prayer works and affect you whether you are praying for yourself or someone else.

Jenny said...

This really sounds so beautiful and moving. I think I need to make time for this one for sure. I wish I'd had a chance to read this (and other ucf author books) prior to the event!

Suko said...

Beautiful review of what sounds like a truly beautiful book! Kindness is always a positive force.

Aths said...

I've heard so much about this book! I can't wait to pick it up. I also agree that prayer is really powerful. I'm not religious, but that's one thing I strongly believe in.

Kaye said...

River's book, Saints in Limbo, is a wonderful read. Perhaps you would like that one too.

geosi said...

Its great when a book is able to change your perspective. All good I think.

Audra said...

I'm pretty allergic to religious books (despite being spiritual myself and married to a former minister) but I do appreciate stories of people looking beyond themselves. Your enthusiasm for this book has me thinking I need to be a little less snobbish! :) Thanks for sharing your feelings on this book -- a great review and one that has me chewing over my own relationship with 'prayer' (as such) and my dealings with others.

Jenners said...

It seems this book has a way of rubbing off on people and encouraging them to reach out a bit more like you described. What a wonderful thing! And the author sounds like a truly authentic and lovely person.

Cath said...

I'm not religious at all, but this sounds so positive and upbeat to me that I might make an exception. I sometimes need to be reminded to look outside of myself and this would be a welcome reminder.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

If there is any person who will love this book in my life, it will be my wife. I will recommend this to her. And is River Jordan her pseudonym or her actual name?

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

i really enjoyed this book and meeting Ms. Jordan at SIBA a couple of years ago - truly a delightful and genuine spirit!

Mumsy said...

Hm...this sounds like I might like it.

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