At Mormon Matters we will occasionally focus on the importance of sticking with (though often with changed forms) spiritual practices even while in the midst of shifting faith. Even when we might not be sure what we believe anymore, putting ourselves in some way in a position to stay connected with God (whoever or whatever that is, some would add) and our highest selves and desires is vital to our remaining in balance and not letting our minds and doubts completely run the show.
In that spirit, we present this show and the introduction it gives to a recently discovered (at least for a general audience) practice from early and medieval Christianity that has surprising relevance for today’s world and how we access information and get ideas for how we might live. (Hence the words in the subtitle to the episode, which comes from the introduction to the book about the practice we discuss herein.) Earlier this year, the book The Prayer Wheel: A Daily Guide to Renewing Your Faith with a Rediscovered Spiritual Practice was published (Convergent Books). Written by three friends—Jana Riess (who is well known to and beloved by the Mormon Matters audience), Patton Dodd, and David Van Biema—the book chronicles the discovery of a diagram that was bound into a thousand-year-old book containing the four Gospels. As the authors researched it and discovered similar (but less awesome–of course!) diagrams, they realized they had stumbled upon a prayer technology used within Christianity during the medieval period (and likely longer), but which had lost its relevance sometime following the invention of the printing press. Now it is being re-presented here at this very time when some say we are at the end of the printing press era, and it bears similarities to how we use apps and various digital and smartphone technologies today. It’s a fascinating story and both it and the prayer wheel itself hold many interesting things to think about.
But most importantly, the wheel also a powerful tool for devotional prayer and assisting us in drawing closer to God and our own centers. We won’t describe it here (the image accompanying this write-up on the Mormon Matters website shows the wheel with English translations of what was originally Latin), but we will say that for Mormon audiences, who typically stay away from fixed or rote prayers, this wheel (and the book’s and this podcast’s presentation of ways to use it) highlights a practice that is somewhere in-between fixed and freestyle praying. It is quite intriguing for anyone who is trying to deepen her or his devotional life through a contemplative practice. Within the conversation here, we also discuss other connections Mormons might make between it and early and present-day Christianity and Judaism.
We think you’ll find the discussion in this episode delightful in its mix of personal journeying, intellectual fascination, and how the wheel has enhanced the authors’ own faith lives. This will be a show that afterward you will likely say, “Wow, before I began listening, I had no clue that I’d be as interested in this topic as I am now!”
Link to download a larger version of the prayer wheel (pictured above)
Patton Dodd, Jana Riess, and David Van Biema, The Prayer Wheel: A Daily Guide to Renewing Your Faith with a Rediscovered Spiritual Practice (New York: Convergent Books, 2018).
Click here to go to The Prayer Wheel book website
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor (Paraclete Press, 2011)
Patton Dodd, My Faith So Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion (Josey-Bass, 2004)