LORRAINE KISLY writer, editor, journalist
WHEN EDITOR Lorraine Kisly set out to compile Ordinary Graces: Christian Teachings on the Interior Life, a collection of texts drawn from many centuries that deal with the Christian experience, it was, as she told Jana Reiss of Publisher's Weekly, "to reanimate my own connection with Christian teaching."
She conducted most of her research at the General and Union Theological seminaries in New York with "no external criteria" about what she would include in the work. "I just went after the teachings that resonated emotionally, spiritually and intellectually." Thus she included selections by ancient fathers of the Christian church, as well as by modern Catholic, Orthodox Catholic, and Protestant writers, teachers, and artists.
A Publisher's Weekly reviewer praised Ordinary Graces, describing it as "a book to be savored slowly, marked up thoroughly, and made one's own."
Two years later Kisly published Watch and Pray: Christian Teachings on the Practice of Prayer (subsequently reissued in paperback by Shambhala as Christian Teachings on the Practice of Prayer). In this companion volume to Ordinary Graces she offers readers sections culled from a wide variety of Christian writings, along with brief introductions.
The selections are arranged in ten themed "cycles" that delve into such crucial topics as communion with God, repentance, obedience, the Holy Spirit, the Lord's Prayer, and renunciation. Thematic threads running through these cycles include love, solitude, and community.
"Each cycle goes from the most accessible level to the most sublime insight on the topic in that cycle's theme," Kisly explained to a Beliefnet interviewer. "The cycles themselves move from what D. H. Lawrence called the 'fundamental religious sense of wonder' through teachings on the neighbor, presence, will, obstacles and so on, through to divine union, which is the ultimate relationship." "As well as the 'old masters' of the development of the interior life," wrote Gordon Barker in Anglican Journal, "there are also the writings of those you may never have heard of which may touch you deeply." A Publisher's Weekly contributor held a similar view: "This gorgeous collection has the potential to inspire, shape and deepen a Christian's life of prayer."
Kisly treats a single prayer in her next title, The Prayer of Fire: Experiencing the Lord's Prayer. In this extended mediation, which Library Journal reviewer Graham Christian dubbed a "delightful book," Kisly examines line by line the Lord's Prayer, which Christians of all denominations regularly recite. She not only discusses the literary and historical merit of these lines, but also probes the ways in which they help the prayer focus on Christ. The emphasis is on listening rather than reciting the prayer, and on discovering it as the primary Christian meditation. A "gentle, probing book" is the way a Sojourners reviewer summed up the work.