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Reviewed by:
  • A Quaker Prayer Life by David Johnson
  • Doug Gwyn
A Quaker Prayer Life. By David Johnson. San Francisco: Inner Light Books, 2013. 80 pp. Notes. Cloth, $20.00; paper, $12.50; eBook, $10.

David Johnson’s book is a very useful contribution, particularly for Friends and others seeking to dig deeper in their prayer life and experience a more fruitful meeting for worship. Johnson, an Australian Friend, garners a large selection of spiritual counsel and wisdom from Friends through the centuries, from George Fox and Elizabeth Bathurst to Thomas Kelly and Sandra Cronk. He also includes relevant biblical texts, Christian mystics, and convergent Buddhist and Hindu teachings. But the bulk of his sources are from first and second generation Friends, whose personal breakthroughs and guidance to bereft seekers have particular resonance today. Modern Friends are remarkably unaware of these resources from our own tradition. This book will help make important connections for those who take time to read and absorb its many vital points.

Johnson has many good excerpts to share and the book risks repetitiveness. But since the counter-intuitive insights of Quaker spirituality are easy to miss, it is useful to hear the same basic truths restated by different authors using various figures of speech. The one criticism I would make is that the book doesn’t address the way the prayer life of early and traditional Friends grew in concert with their outward behavior. The interaction of inward faith and outward practice is the engine of growth. We sense that early Friends had something important that we need to rediscover for ourselves. A one-sided focus on the inner life will not get us there. But to introduce the social dimension would have required a larger and more complex book, like my own Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience (2000). And that loses readers (as I know too well!).

I commend David Johnson for his important contribution. A Quaker Prayer Life is the most complete collection of Quaker spiritual guidance available in print today.

Doug Gwyn
Quaker Studies Teacher, Pendle Hill


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