Review of Praying for Strangers, by River Jordan

Praying for Strangers

An Adventure of the Human Spirit

by River Jordan

Berkley Books, New York, 2011. 322 pages.

River Jordan was facing a rough year. Both of her sons were active duty military. One was being deployed to Afghanistan and the other to Iraq. A crazy resolution came into her head, and it ended up being the only resolution she ever carried out, all year long. She began praying for a stranger every day.

This book is the story of that resolution and the way it transformed her year and her life.

The chapters are short. This makes a lovely inspirational book to read a chapter a day during your quiet time. Some of the chapters tell about strangers she met and felt compelled to pray for. Some told their stories to her and why they desperately needed prayer when she offered it. Some she never told she was praying. But what a thought, what a challenge: To pray for a stranger every day.

She reflects on what she learned in the amazing year, and why she’s going to keep going:

But what I am learning when I pray for strangers is that I fully expect those prayers to be answered for the simple reason that this act is carried out from one soul to another without any personal agenda attached. The faith attached to those prayers is tangible, sometimes more than others. When I pray for those closest to me, all those prayers are a part of my selfish heart. Yes, I pray out of love for them but also for my need for that love to continue. For them to be well, happy, successful. For them to thrive in their lives that I might find happiness.

I’m beginning to see that the part of me that reaches out to the homeless and the well-to-do, the young and the aged, the broken and lost, is the one that matters most. My heart has opened up so much further than I ever dreamed possible. These strangers, this adventure, are making me a better person in spite of myself. Once an internal recluse, I’m more open to not only meeting people, but opening myself up to truly caring what happens in their lives. . . .

That’s the way it is now: These people and their stories are no longer shadowy extras, character walk-ons cruising the periphery of my life. Their stories have become integrated into the fabric of my own. Perhaps the poets and prophets were right all along. We don’t come into this world separate, or belonging to a select few, but we’re a part of the human race. All of us amazingly the same in spite of our differences. This is the real thing. We belong to each other. We always have. And in the process of my understanding this, of walking out this resolution, I’ve lost my regret and instead have counted it lost if I don’t touch a life, offer a smile, a prayer, a pause along the way. So every day I continue to do this one tiny thing. This one tiny, incredible thing.

I recommend taking a walk with River Jordan on her surprising journey. You will be inspired and you will be challenged. And your eyes will be opened.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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