Editor’s note: Jump into our online book club! We’re reading Jane Knuth’s The Prayer List…and Other True Stories of How Families Pray. This week we focus on chapters 3–5. Learn more about the book club here.
Admission: I don’t like to be caught praying on my knees in my own house. Church is fine—I pray on my knees there all the time. But if I’m going down on my knees at home, I shut the bedroom door and do it in the dark. I cannot explain this behavior.
In The Prayer List, Bistra Gancheva describes what it was like trying to pray in communist Bulgaria during the Cold War. She did not dare to teach her children to pray for fear that they would reveal it to their teachers. Praying at home with her children was not something she did. Her livelihood as a college professor, her very freedom, and her sons’ educational opportunities were all at risk if she practiced her religion openly. So Bistra would slip into large, cavernous churches, which were used primarily as architectural museums. Avoiding the tourists and government guides, she “tried to find an obscure corner where I would not be seen,” and there, huddled out of sight, she would pray. For decades she prayed this way.
Even after reading Bistra’s story, I still can’t explain my own behavior, in my own house, with my family all around me.
The Prayer List Discussion Questions
- Do you say grace in restaurants? At the homes of friends who are not religious?
- Have you ever had an experience, like Bistra, when you felt afraid to pray in front of other people?
- In chapter 3, Toni’s son prays when his father asks him to lead. How comfortable are you with leading prayer?
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