Several weeks ago I received a copy of Father Edward L. Beck's new book Soul Provider. Based on the dust jacket's adulations - Andrew Greeley, Diane Sawyer, and Anne Lamont - I figured it'd be at the very least an accessible book on prayer. Fortunately for me, I found it not only accessible but also deeply moving.
Structured around the Ladder of Divine Ascent written by the sixth-century monk John Climacus, Soul Provider invites the reader to embark upon a spiritual pilgrimage. The book is broken up into thirty chapters, fourteen corresponding to vices that we need to overcome (anger, malice, falsehood --- a purgative path) and sixteen virtues we ought to acquire (Simplicity, humility, discernment -- an illuminative path) culminating in a deep union with God in love.
What I found helpful was both the length of each chapter - about ten pages each, making for quick reading - and the questions at the end of each chapter. These questions helped to spur my own personal prayer as I worked through the book and I found myself processing ever more deeply the insights I gained from my reading as I meditated on his reflection questions. And in using narratives drawn from his own experience, I found it very easy to see the ways in which the spiritual wisdom acquired through these pages became incarnate in my own life.
I have a deep mistrust of "do it yourself" spirituality books, usually because I find them pretty flaky. This book does not promise instant enlightenment or wisdom. What it does offer is a companion for the journey each of us must make, one rung at a time. It is a painful, arduous journey (one not able to be covered in 30 days or even 30 chapters!) but I'd suggest this book as a very fine start on your pilgrimage.