I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent

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I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent

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I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent by Joyce Wilson-Sanford is comprised of 365 daily reflections and 12 monthly personal stories. It tells of the author’s return to a prayer/devotions practice as she shares her own very naked, very funny, very touching prayers and reflections.

The book also shares Joyce’s personal history of bumps and bruises both in her life and in her spiritual growth. This is not a didactic book. The author has no answers for others, but shares how and why she prays. Her inclusive approach, practical voice and humorous compassion welcome anyone wanting to have their own devotional practice beyond their own ambivalence—to pray anyway. Joyce speaks the language of the spiritually independent and articulates the ambivalence of the growing group who are religiously disenfranchised.

Joyce’s life has had its share of profound challenges and she has gone through many permutations of devotional practices—including having none—and now has emerged with a very real engaging wisdom that she shares in this book. While more and more people are disassociating themselves from an official religious affiliation, most of us still crave the sort of wisdom that faith provides. Here are 365 ‘prayers’—you might also call them poems or musings or mantras—that offer tastes of this knowledge like sips from a glorious wellspring.

Don’t miss Joyce Wilson-Sandord’s companion book PLAYbook for I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent. It is a creative, thought provoking guide/curriculum based on the book I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent by Joyce Wilson-Sanford.

Themes from the book, such as Faith & Doubt, Miracles, Solitude & Silence are explored. Each of the 13 chapters contains questions for discussion groups or book clubs as well as workshop activities that are innovative and interactive. Resources are suggested for deeper exploration.

The PLAYbook’s purpose is to open up discussion about the changes in modern religion, with all points of view being respected and explored in order to honor the past, discard what isn’t working and to create new forms for the sacred in an overly secular world. Click here to purchase Playbook.


KIRKUS REVIEW: A collection of candid prayers that vacillate between faith and doubt, pleasure and pain, and virtue and vice.

Debut author Wilson-Sanford doesn’t sugar coat her spiritual experiences in these prayers. Her “devotions for the ambivalent” reflect the transcendent power of prayer and spirituality but also the many human follies that keep people from such transcendence. For example, on the positive side, she writes, “To think prayer produces results / Now there’s an idea / Not just comfort or yearning as a last resort / But a force /… / Not mental shenanigans / … / But transforming energy.” On the other hand, though, she writes, “No prayer tonight / Just thrashing / Lashing out at my own distractions / Too busy being mad at me / … / Oh well / More to come.” Another theme is the importance of looking outside oneself. In one prayer, she writes,”There is a world out there / Try that on / Soldiers on any side who want to be home /… / Hungry, hungry people in a fat land / Try those lenses on.”Wilson-Sanford also includes short reflections on her own life at the beginning of each of 12 “months” containing 365 short prayers in total. In these, she describes her fluctuating faith during her youth, the strength that prayer brought her at various change-points in adulthood (including marriage, divorce, single parenting, and step parenting), and finally, the spiritual progression of her later years. These stories, too, reflect ambivalence: “Under duress, I turned to God-ness. / During good spells, not so much.”

The key characteristic of this prayer collection is its authenticity. These devotions have their ups and downs, and yet despite occasional backsliding, there’s a subtle spiritual maturation as the book goes on. The prayers wouldn’t be complete without Wilson-Sanford’s autobiographical reflections, as they give important context to both her faith and inner turmoil and provide real-life examples of the ebb and flow of life, which many readers will be able to relate to. Although there are sporadicChristian references, the author emphasizes spirituality over religiosity, sometimes even criticizing traditional religion: “Modern religion has a problem/ Of being bored with itself / Yadda yadda yadda / Droning hymn.” Not all the prayers are equal in quality; some are too vague to carry great meaning, and others include language that lacks the poetic mood of other verses (“Get be hind me, Monkey Mind / Shut up, Words / It’s my experience, so I’ll have it”). The vast majority, however, are full of wisdom and humor, validating readers’ own difficult spiritual journeys and encouraging them to use prayer as a means to transform themselves and the world around them. Also, if the prayers are read continuously instead of sporadically, they do begin to sound redundant and lose some of their energy; hence, they are best savored and pondered individually rather than devoured all in one sitting.

These genuine prayers will inspire readers to pray despite fluctuations in one’s soul and in the world.

Consumed all at once or savored over time, these prayers will make you reflect on your own understanding of the divine. Often funny and always heartfelt, they act as a guide to a greater sense of gratitude and awe.” Corinna Nicolaou author THE NONE’S STORY (Colombia University Press)

Joyce is a retired global executive (which means once upon a time she knew how to function) is the mother of five adult children and grandmother of five grandkids (which means she is flexible resourceful and incapable of shock) is married to a marriage counselor and author (which means thank goodness she is funny) is serious about life (which means thank goodness she is funny) is unique, creative and playful (which means she has enough perspective to have some wisdom) Is passionate about whatever she does (including her writing and her three blogs—I Pray Anyway, CEO Note to Self and Truth Burps—all of which can be found at readjoyce.com)

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