When Thomas Nelson offered me the opportunity to review Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson, I was glad to accept. I’ve recently read several books on prayer, so the description immediately caught my attention. The premise – that our brains are “wired”, so to speak, for prayer – was intriguing. The dust jacket claims that, “Mystically Wired is a practical guide to cooperating with your brain’s innate capacities in order to experience a richer, fuller prayer life…prayer is a human instinct, not an impossible chore.” Chapters 1-5 explore a new way to understand prayer based on recent research on the human brain. Chapters 5-10 are practical application…exploring new ways to pray in light of that information.
I appreciated the conversational style of the writing and Wilson’s attempts to make prayer seem “do-able” and not something to be intimidated by. I liked that he pointed out that our brain – not just our spirit – is engaged when we pray. He also rightly pointed out that Western civilization, shaped by rationalism, tends to distrust spiritual experiences. I especially enjoyed the explanation of the Eastern Orthodox concept of prayer as “descending with the mind into the heart” and the use of the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) in order to focus our minds on Jesus and tune out all our distracting thoughts that hinder prayer. The discussion of heaven as a real place and the possibilities for how resurrection actually works in light of new discoveries in physics, though not entirely new to me, were intriguing.
I found several helpful sections in the practical application portion of the book. The tips for meditating on Scripture were good. Chapters 7 and 9 were probably the best material in the book, in my opinion. Ch. 7 addressed the concept of “fixed hour prayer” throughout the day rather than one long prayer session once a day, as well as daily, weekly, and seasonal praying. Ch. 9 addressed meeting God in “the outdoor cathedral”…nature…and made the point that not everything has to be put into words. As Wilson said, “Your brain is not just a word processor.”
But, despite finding a few helpful nuggets and tidbits, I’m left uncomfortable and disappointed with the book overall. The message that came across throughout most of the book was that we can manipulate our brains to achieve a desirable result in our mood, attitude, or outlook on life if we use the right prayer “techniques”. Often there was almost a “power of positive thinking”, self-help tone. The purpose of prayer seemed to be reduced to the experience itself and the benefits we can get out of it, rather than a way for us to open ourselves to the Spirit and align ourselves with God’s will.
So, although some of the techniques and methods given were helpful, the underlying theology of what prayer actually is and what it’s purpose is meant to be seemed flawed. For that reason, I don’t recommend this book. Instead, I’d recommend A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller and Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name by Bryan Chapell for those who are interested in deepening their prayer life. Both have been wonderfully helpful to me in this area.
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Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing the review copy of “Mystically Wired” to me. All opinions I’ve given are my own. I’m disclosing this information in compliance with FTC regulations.