Welcome friends to my stop on the Praying with Jane tour!
Get yourselves cozy by the fire with a mug of cider and help yourselves to a warm pumpkin-chocolate chip cookie just out of the oven. I'm excited to share with you my thoughts on Rachel Dodge's engaging new release with an insightful look into one of my favorite author's life followed by a Question and Answer segment provided by the publisher. Stick around to the end for a lovely opportunity to get your hands on your own copy courtesy of Bethany House Publishers.
A New Devotional Based on the Prayers of Jane Austen
Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen
by Rachel Dodge
While much has been written about Jane Austen’s life and novels, less is known about her spiritual side or the three prayers she wrote. In Praying with Jane, Christian readers and Jane Austen fans can explore Austen’s prayers in an intimate devotional format as they learn about her personal faith, her Anglican upbringing, and the spiritual truths found in her novels.
Jane Austen’s faith comes to life in this beautiful 31-day devotional through her exquisite prayers, touching biographical anecdotes, and illuminating scenes from her novels. Each daily entry includes examples from Austen’s own life and novels, as well as key Scripture verses, ideas for personal application, and a prayer inspired by Jane’s petitions.
My thoughts while I perused Praying with Jane:
For those who admire Jane Austen's literary works and take it further to admire the lady writer behind them, this slim guided-prayer devotional volume that parses out three recorded prayers of Jane Austen has vast appeal.
In Praying with Jane, the author provides an introduction to Jane Austen's religious background and how this volume should be best employed. Austen's prayers themselves are echoes of prayer patterns found in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer and fell right in line with a Regency era clergyman's daughter's prayer life. They are beautiful, articulate, and thought-provoking like much of Austen's writing. The prayers' elements included: thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession.
Praying With Jane has three sections because there are three prayers of Austen that her sister Cassandra preserved for posterity. The author breaks down each prayer into ten-day increments. These day sections are brief and can be as short as five to ten minutes if the reader is rushed for time.
The author quotes the portion of the prayer that the day's section covers, then a parallel thought from Jane's or the lives of characters from her novels and then further ties this to a Biblical concept or character study. There are scripture references included for further reflection or to reinforce the point of the section. Next, there is an invitation to pray regarding the aspect of Jane's prayer introduced for that day with a guide for the reader's prayerful thoughts.
In the end, there is a followup epilogue, notes, and bibliography.
While this is assuredly a book to which all are welcome to pick up, I think it is most definitely aimed at Christian readers or those who are open to learning more about the tenets of Christianity through Christian topics, Bible verses, and prayer. It also is for those who enjoy themed guided prayer devotionals.
Prayer is the primary focus, but as a lover of all things Jane Austen, I was thrilled to delve into the religious aspect of her life. I had, as far as I know, never read through any of Jane Austen's prayers nor had any idea they were preserved after her death. I enjoyed that the author did the work of studying out Austen's prayers, her family and religious background. It is clear the author is familiar with Austen's life and novels. I enjoyed seeing her use scenes and characters from the novels to help reinforce that day's thoughts on Austen's prayer or even better point out echoes of terms or phrases from her novels. When she mentions 'pride and folly' my mind definitely leaped to her most famous work and when she beseeches God to protect friends and family from danger away and at home, I felt her anguish that her sailor brothers would be safe while away fighting a war.
On a side note, the presentation of this volume was well done from cover, to formatting, and to print choices. It is a treasure and collectible to grace the shelf or table as a personal purchase or a gift.
All in all, I found Praying With Jane to be interesting for the topic, thought-provoking and uplifting in the teaching aspect. I appreciated the challenge to consider my motives toward others, to be generous and giving, and to do a daily end of the day inspection of my behavior for the purpose of doing better in future. I can recommend it to those looking for a guided prayer devotional and/or those who wish to know something of Austen's prayers and the Christian religion.
My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Q & A with Rachel Dodge:
1. Why did you write Praying with Jane?
A: Praying with Jane is an invitation to Christian women and Jane Austen fans alike to closely explore Austen’s Christian faith and apply her prayers and the lessons in them to their own lives.
It’s fascinating to look at the spiritual side of someone like Jane Austen and see how her faith influenced the way she lived, thought, and wrote. Praying with Jane takes readers on a journey through Jane’s prayers toward a closer, more intimate walk with God.
2. How did you become interested in Jane Austen’s prayers?
A: I’ve been writing, teaching, and speaking about Jane Austen’s novels and life for almost two decades, and I’ve read her prayers and about her prayers. But when a fellow author asked me one day if I’d ever thought of writing a book about Jane Austen, I said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book about her prayers!” The idea took root and didn’t let go. I read her prayers over and over, read every scholarly article and book I could find that mentioned her prayers or faith, and studied her letters and family memoirs closely. The more time I spent with Jane’s prayers, the more they came alive for me. I listened to the cadence of her words and opened my heart to the meaning behind the intricate language. I found myself praying my own prayers alongside hers.
Praying with Jane is my way of honoring Jane Austen’s prayers and the legacy of her faith.
3. How did you come up with the concept of a devotional?
A: I wrote Praying with Jane as a devotional book because it allows readers to slow down and savor the language, meaning, and lessons found in Jane Austen’s prayers. Her three prayers are lengthy, and the language, just like her novels, is formal and intricate. Reading the prayers straight through is lovely, but a slower, more contemplative look brings out the exquisite depth they possess. In Praying with Jane, readers can open the devotional each day and find a small chunk of one of Jane’s prayers to meditate on, along with personal application, biblical concepts, and spiritual lessons. Jane Austen fans will particularly enjoy excerpts from her novels, letters, and family memoirs that help illustrate each day’s theme.
4. Many people know and love Jane Austen’s novels, but not as much is known about her prayers. What should we know?
A: Besides her novels, juvenilia, and minor works, Jane Austen wrote three prayers. Her sister, Cassandra, folded them together and inscribed the words “Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane” on the outside. They were passed down by her family and kept safe for future generations. In the prayers, Austen’s writing style is similar to the prayers found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England (or the Anglican Church). Each one includes a time of thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. They are written on two quarto sheets, printed front and back, and housed at The Elinor Raas Heller Rare Book Room at Mills College. I had the honor of viewing the original manuscripts during my research for Praying with Jane—and it’s a day I won’t soon forget!
5. Can you tell us more about Jane Austen’s family and how their Christian faith affected their daily life?
A: Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, was an Anglican clergyman. According to family letters and documents, Reverend Austen devoted himself to his work as a spiritual leader in his parish and his home. Thus, Jane Austen grew up immersed in the traditions of the Church of England. The life of devoted Anglicans in Austen’s day is touching: Their religious life extended far beyond the morning and evening church services they attended on Sundays. They shared in corporate family prayers in the morning and evening, they said their own private prayers when they woke up and went to bed each day, and they prayed as a family before meals and again in thanksgiving afterward. In the evening, the Austen family enjoyed reading out loud from novels, poetry, sermons, and the Bible.
On one Sunday evening when the family was unable to attend church, Jane wrote in a letter, “In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home.”1 It’s possible that Jane shared her prayers during their family evening devotions.
6. What do we know about Jane Austen’s personal faith?
A: Jane Austen’s prayers, daily habits, and family memoirs all point to a personal faith in Christ and a commitment to following the teachings of the Bible. Family documents reveal she was a devoted daughter, sister, aunt, and friend who lived out her faith in practical ways, in the way she spent her time, how she related to others, and how she wrote. Her nieces and nephews commented in letters and memoirs about the example she set as an aunt, as an author, and as a Christian. Jane was intimately familiar with the devotional literature and sermons of her day. She “cherished” William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar and “made constant use of the prayers and meditations included in it.” 2 She most likely knew many of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer by heart. Finally, a close inspection of her novels reveals subtle moral lessons and biblical themes.
7. What can readers expect when they read Praying with Jane? Give us a feel for the format.
A: Praying with Jane is designed to help readers take time with Jane’s prayers, understand each one more fully, and delve into the treasure trove of biblical and practical applications found in each line. Though each of Jane’s three prayers would have most likely been read to her family in its entirety, Praying with Jane breaks them down into daily portions. At the end of each day’s entry, there’s an invitation to pray and a sample prayer. The sample prayers are meant as a starting point for an extended time of personal prayer.
8. How can readers use Praying with Jane to know Jane Austen better and learn more about her faith?
Reading Jane’s prayers is a bit like looking into her heart. In them, we get to know another side of Jane’s personality—a more serious and reverent side. They reveal a genuine, practical faith in Jesus Christ. Every line displays a balance of robust belief and tender intimacy. And, like her novels, Jane’s prayers contain meaning that reaches far beyond eloquent words or graceful phrases. They are personal and reflective, passionate and thorough. They show us the value she placed on corporate and family prayer. Even more, Jane’s prayers reveal her closeness to God and her desire to be more like Christ.
9. Rachel, what is your vision and prayer for readers of this book?
Writing Praying with Jane was a dream come true because it allowed me to join together two of the things I’m most passionate about—my Christian faith and my love for Jane Austen! My vision and prayer for this book is to encourage both Christian readers and Jane Austen fans (and everyone in between) to draw closer to God in prayer. It’s my prayer that as readers “pray with Jane,” the Lord will unlock profound truths and hidden promises as they come near to him in expectation.
1Jane Austen, Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 157.
2 Irene Collins, Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter (London: Bloomsbury, 1998), 72.
WHERE YOU CAN FIND PRAYING WITH JANE:
WHERE YOU CAN FIND RACHEL:
Rachel Dodge is a Jane Austen scholar and college English instructor. She teaches Jane Austen classes, gives talks about Jane Austen at book clubs and reading groups, and is a regular contributor to the Jane Austen’s World web site and blog. Rachel also speaks at libraries and JASNA regional group meetings. She was the keynote speaker at the Sacramento Public Library’s “How Austentatious!” series, Notable Books series, and 2014 Jane Austen Birthday Tea (each with 250-300 attendees).
Rachel is a graduate of the University of Southern California (B.A. in English and public relations) and California State University, Sacramento (M.A. in English literature). She wrote her Master’s Thesis on etiquette in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and won the 2005 Dominic J. Bazzanella Literary Award in non-fiction for “Pictures of (Im)perfection: Jane Austen’s ‘Delightful’ Elizabeth Bennet.” She is a member of Inspire Writers, JASNA, JASNA Greater Sacramento, and a writing critique group.
A true Janeite at heart, Rachel loves books, bonnets, and ball gowns. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her playing with her two children, serving at her church, or watching British dramas with her very own (very patient) “Mr. Darcy.”
Giveaway provided by Bethany House Publishers
One (1) print copy (like in the picture) of Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge
US mailing address only
Giveaway ends November 14th
Winner will need to provide contact details for the purpose of receiving prize and confirm within 48 hours after email is sent out. Address provided will be used only this once for the purpose of mailing out prize and discarded afterward. Sophia Rose's Place is not responsible for lost or damaged packages.
To Enter: Comment on this post and include your email address as 'at dot com'
Leave your calling card with other hostesses from the Blog Tour:
October 31 – Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 1 – So Little Time, So Much to Read! (Review, Q&A)
November 2 – Laura’s Reviews (Review and Giveaway)
November 3 – Burton Book Reviews (Review)
November 5 – Jane Austen in Vermont
November 6 – Calico Critic
November 7 – A Bookish Way of Life
November 8 – Diary of an Eccentric
November 9 – Becoming
November 10 – My Jane Austen Book Club
November 11 – My Love for Jane Austen
November 12- Laughing With Lizzie
November 13 – Faith, Science, Joy … and Jane Austen
Thank you for visiting today!