Prayer: A History (Hardcover)

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"This is the most stunning book on prayer that I have ever read. It will become the benchmark for every other work on the subject, present or future. The Zaleskis' massive scholarship, catholicity of interests, and clarity of presentation make this a volume to hold close to both the heart and the head." -- Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours

This landmark book presents prayer in all its richness and variety throughout history, across traditions, and around the globe. Focusing on extraordinary stories of lives changed by prayer and on great works of literature and art inspired by it, Philip and Carol Zaleski map the vast world of prayer from the sacred pipe to the rosary, from Paleolithic cave art to Pentecostal revivals. They reveal the fascinating experiences of such great and sometimes surprising figures as Emily Dickinson, Bill W., Teresa of Ávila, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Samuel Johnson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Examining prayer as petition, thanksgiving, adoration, contemplation, ecstasy, magic, and sacrifice, the Zaleskis probe the language of prayer, the fruits of prayer, its controversies, and its prospects for the future.

Prayer is an informative, accessible, and entertaining narrative that will appeal to an audience of all faiths. The Zaleskis have created a work that will be the standard for years to come.

Philip Zaleski is the editor of the Best American Spiritual Writing series, author of The Recollected Heart, and coeditor, with Carol Zaleski, of The Book of Heaven. He is a senior editor at Parabola and a research associate in religion at Smith College.

Carol Zaleski is the author of Otherworld Journeys and The Life of the World to Come, and coeditor of The Book of Heaven. She contributes a monthly column to Christian Century and is a professor of religion at Smith College.

"Prayer: A History is not only a fabulous, very readable, immensely informative and (I would even say) 'inspirational' volume. It is, to my mind, simply unmatched in the vast literature on what lies, after all, at the heart of the religious life. The Zaleskis range over history (even prehistory), art, literature, theology, and comparative religion -- a real tour de force. But throughout, they engage any reader -- specialist or not -- and never flaunt their impressive learning. They help us understand the unending human quest for meaning at its deepest level." -- Harvey Cox

"Prayer is simply a wonderful book -- intelligent, beautifully written, important, inclusive, and completely useful. I wish every world leader would read it word for word today. We'd all be better for it. Carol and Philip Zaleski have been making extraordinary contributions to religion and spirituality for many years, and now they have outdone themselves." -- Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

"Everybody prays. Whether with faith-filled discipline or in the unanticipated aspiration, prompted by despair or ecstasy, calling out to the Unknown, everybody prays. Everybody who is serious about prayer will be grateful to the Zaleskis for this inspired and inspiring book." -- Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things

Praise For…

"This is a majestic account of one of the very few, and very central, distinctively human activities." --Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"A wonderful book -- original, well-researched, clear, inspiring, even-handed. I applaud the two Zaleskis for their great effort." --Natalie Goldberg, author of Long Quiet Highway and The Great Failure

"A grand and human compendium, fascinating on every page. It's witty, moving, and full of interesting facts and funny stories." --Annie Dillard

"A much-needed study of a neglected topic." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"A wonderful read...Any serious student of prayer will learn a good deal from this book." --America

"A finely written, accessible, and informative thematic history of prayer." Library Journal

"A rich study...[The Zaleskis] rival Karen Armstrong in their lucid prose and expansive vision." Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9780618152889
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: November 1st, 2005
Pages: 432