In Uncommon Prayer: Prayer in Everyday Experience, Michael Plekon wants to change our minds on what constitutes prayer. In doing so, he makes a theological claim that commonplace aspects of the Christian life are best understood as prayer, whereby encouraging us to see that everyday life carries religious import; prayer and the religious life are not restricted to special places and times, but are open to all believers at all times.
Plekon examines the works of diverse authors, including many who have challenged the status quo of institutional churches. He asks us to listen to what poets, writers, activists, and others tell us about how they pray at work and at home, with colleagues, family, and friends, in all the experiences of life, from joy to suffering, sadness to hope. Among them are Sarah Coakley, Rowan Williams, Heather Havrilesky, Sara Miles, Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, Christian Wiman, Mary Karr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Dorothy Day, Maria Skobtsova, Paul Evdokimov, Seraphim of Sarov, and Richard Rohr. Plekon argues that prayer encompasses a much wider variety of activity than formal and liturgical prayers and that, by recognizing such aspects of prayer, the believer is made more receptive to transformative aspects of prayerful attitudes.
From the book:
“What we will examine in this book—uncommon prayer—manifests the insight of a great tradition, namely, that it is possible to pray always and everywhere, and that the formal frameworks of books, scriptures as well as rites or services, do not restrict us. I intend to show in personal reminiscence precisely how these also come alive in everyday life. Perhaps it is possible to think of how weavers incorporate a pattern into many threads as they move the loom. The pattern is distinct from the threads, but, once woven, it is integral to the fabric, the cloth so produced. Is this not what prayer is really meant to be?”
“Many books on prayer, even for a more academic audience, are rather thin on contemporary authors. This book does a fine job of looking carefully at a number of important, contemporary theologians (in a broad sense of this term) who write on this topic. This should be an important book for scholars, students, and thoughtful readers in the field of spirituality and spiritual theology. I think that many scholars and students in the various pastoral and practical theological disciplines would find it interesting and worth reading.” — Alan G. Padgett, Luther Seminary
" Uncommon Prayer indeed! Only theologians as steeped in the mystical tradition of the Orthodox Church as Michael Plekon can write with theological depth and spiritual insight on how to pray uncommonly in common experiences of life. Whether you are a theologian, a hermit, a poet, a person going through the darkness of the soul, a teacher, or, listen to this, a pirogi-making cook—there is a prayer for you. This book is a gem of spirituality, and I wish that every believer and even nonbeliever can have the blessing of reading it or, better, praying with it." — Peter C. Phan, Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University
“A skilled teacher and guide, Michael Plekon leads readers into the experience of lived prayer with the depth of a scholar and the wisdom of a seeker. Plekon’s book brilliantly moves beyond the valuable yet limited tradition of academic studies on prayer to present us with a new and compelling look at the rich diversity of approaches toward increased awareness of and communication with the divine. Accompanied by poets and authors, pastors and ministers, theologians and preachers alike, Plekon lucidly helps to renew the scholarly and practical definition of prayer. Regardless of what prior views about prayer and praxis one brings to this text, Uncommon Prayer invites all readers to expand the horizon of their experience and risk an extraordinary encounter of the divine in everyday life.” — Daniel P. Horan, OFM, author of The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton
“In this substantive and enlightening work, Plekon turns to poets, saints, writers, theologians, and activists who demonstrate in word and deed that ‘there is no time of day, no activity, no place that cannot be prayer.’ God is present in all of our lived experiences and resides in family, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers.” — SpiritualityandPractice.com
“[Michael] Plekon is a prolific author with a gift for clear, lively, and quick moving as well as compelling prose. Readers of The Sword will find interesting the author’s Carmelite connection. . . . Plekon examines extensively the lives of social activists best known for their generous commitment to the service of those on the margins of society. Plekon make clear that liturgy and formal prayer are practiced and cherished by himself and in the lives of most of those whose example he describes.” — The Sword
2017 Catholic Press Association Book Award, Third Place in PrayerForeword Reviews’ 2016 INDIES Book of the Year Award, Gold, Religion