‘Into the Deep’ Makes Prayer Accessible for Ordinary People
Because maybe I'm not the only one who struggles with prayer.
When Dan Burke has a new book released, I’m usually right in line to read it.
I like to think I’m pretty familiar with his writing style and how he does things.
So when I saw his latest book, Into the Deep: Finding Peace through Prayer (Beacon, 2016), I was a little taken aback.
It’s less than 100 pages.
I mean, I know prayer is nothing new, but…you’re going to teach me in under 100 pages?
Well. Brace yourself. Because if you’re a fan of Dan Burke’s work, you might find that 100 pages is just the beginning of the journey…
In Into the Deep, Burke strives to make the difficult and challenging concept of prayer a simple and approachable practice.
And, I’m glad to say, he succeeds.
What Burke does so well is plant the seeds. It’s each of our responsibility, though, to water those seeds with our efforts. God will provide the sunshine and the miracle of growth.
Writes Matthew Kelly in the foreword:
Prayer is difficult, joyful, challenging, and life-changing. The journey into prayer, into the heart of God, is the reason we were made; it is the reason God brought us into existence.
This place, this journey, this battle is worth every ounce of effort you can give it. It is worth everything you own, everything you aspire to be, everything you are. If you commit, persevere, and embrace this journey, you will know the life that Jesus has promised, a life of peace and joy that cannot be taken away by the trials of this world.
Burke offers each of us a simple approach to prayer.
If you struggle with prayer…well, that means you’re just like the rest of us. Burke is right in the trenches with us, and he holds out his hand, offering tips, insight, advice, and, best of all, encouragement.
The book is divided into seven chapters, with an introduction and a closing. It’s not designed to be the end-all be-all of prayer, but rather your guidebook and starting point.
For example, in chapter 3, “Essential Elements for Progress in Prayer,” Burke outlines three keys to success, all of them sacred: sacred time, sacred space, and sacred attention. He gives a straightforward explanation and instructions for each.
Even my 12-year-old can put this into play. (Not that she will. But I think my college-age niece might…)
I also really appreciated chapter 5, which I think may be the part of the book that’s going to get dog-eared and highlighted the most for most people. In it, Burke goes through each of the steps of what he’s dubbed Discovery Prayer. After he explains he step, he also includes key questions, which help guide you through that step into the next step.
The marketer in me can’t help but see this process as the “Five R’s of Discovery Prayer”: Reading, Reflecting, Responding, Resting, and Resolving.
Again and again, Burke refers to prayer as a battle, and I used to not understand this. Four kids and 13 years of marriage later, I have more than a glimpse of what he means.
Which makes me appreciate his humor, too.
Because it’s not just about distractions and a scholarly approach to winning this battle (and, we hope, also the war) on our journey to holiness.
Nope. Burke has dubbed the distractions monkeys, and given that my youngest toddler is a climber and the fearless adventurer of my current days, I can’t help but laugh.
The moneys are in my head, though, too.
“The monkeys represent everything that distracts you during prayer,” Burke writes, “your memory, your will, your emotions, your desires, your frustrations, your sins, your shortcomings, your interests, your habits, your good thoughts, your bad thoughts…”
I would add, too, the physical things that distract me: the temperature (too hot! too cold!), the children (who need something! right! now!), the calls…
This book is truly a treasure, and though I would complain about its brevity, I actually appreciate that, like any good teacher, Burke has left us to engage with the material and learn for ourselves. He gives us the instruction and sits back, taking himself out of the spotlight and allowing the material to do its work.
Into the Deep is a a must-have book for Catholics of all stripes. Though it’s targeted at beginners, you might want to check it out before you consider yourself advanced and think yourself beyond it.
Incidentally, Burke has also put together a series of videos about Into the Deep and the topics it covers. They’re each short (around 3 minutes…or less!) and wonderfully done.
You can support the work of EWTN and purchase a copy of this book through the EWTN Religious Catalogue.