The prayers of individuals can reveal much of their heart, struggles, and perspective on life. The same can be true for a group of people using a prayer book for personal and communal devotional times. By reading through the prayers compiled by Beverly Lewis in Amish Prayers, I have gained a greater insight to the faith of the Amish.
As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country alongside a large Amish community. As a teenager I worked in one of the many tourist attractions, giving tours to travelers curious about Amish life, beliefs, and customs. To prepare for this job, I had to read and study several books. In essence, I was expected to become a type of 'expert' on the culture of the Amish. These preparations did not provide an inside look into their prayer books and by extension their heart. Now, years later, through Amish Prayers, I have glimpsed the reverence, humility, and peace of the Amish in a fresh, new way.
Amish Prayers is a selection of translated prayers from the original German prayer book, Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht. According to the forward by Beverley Lewis, the prayer book has not changed since its first printing in 1708. I marveled at this information as I am a descendant of Hans Herr, one of the first settlers of Lancaster County. Herr was an Anabaptist immigrant from Germany, and he, as a bishop in the Mennonite faith in the early 1700's, would have certainly used the Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht. Putting the two pieces together, I realized that not only did I hold in my hands a book of prayers the Amish used, but I beheld a book of prayers that my own personal ancestors used! Realizing this book could provide a more personal look into the heart of my own ancestors as well, I began reading through the prayer excerpts.
The prayers are grouped together by themes, such as repentance, comfort, and unity. Each prayer, accompanied by a related Bible verse, is printed on a single page. The short length allows for a quick read. However, the simple prayers are quite meaningful and reverent. Interspersed among the prayers are pencil drawings of Amish people or things. These simple illustrations depict the peace of the Amish lifestyle and contribute to the overall tranquility of reading through the book.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the Amish and Mennonite faith.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.
Photograph of book featured in this post was provided by Bethany House.