"Praying with Jane" - a Review by Laura Boyle
In Praying with Jane, Rachel Dodge has managed to present Jane Austen’s life “in a style entirely new”, taking a closer look at the heart behind the one of the most beloved authors of all time. Much of what is known of Jane’s life comes in the form of her (censored) letters and the reminiscences of family members. While these details paint a cheerful and amusing picture, that which made Jane Jane, lies at the heart of the three existing prayers we have that she wrote for use during evening prayers. We do not know why she wrote them- whether out of an overflow of devotion or at the bequest of some family member, but the serious, heartfelt tone, when examined, adds a deeper shade to our understanding of the writer. These are no “vain repetitions”, but rather intimate, whole life lessons, summing up the core values of a woman once noted for her desire for anonymity.
In this book, Rachel Dodge closely examines each line of each prayer, in a day by day format, allowing for a 31 day devotional, to be used either in succession, or occasionally. Using Jane’s own historical background as well as Ms. Dodge’s extensive knowledge of Austen’s fictional works, the prayers are placed into context in Jane’s life, along with insightful ways to apply them to our own, often busy, lives. Each day includes related scripture as well as a call to prayer and worship as the reader seeks to apply Jane’s prayers to her own life. This breaking down works amazingly well to draw out the depth of Austen’s own writing and brings the reader a greater appreciation of Austen’s already acknowledged genius with language and the human heart. As a keen observer of people, it is here, in these prayers, that Austen turns her critical eye to her own life with her famous desire to “pray so as to deserve to be heard.” At first blush, this may sound like a works based petition, but a full reading of her hopes, confession of her faults, and humility in recognizing God as the author of all reveals the mind of a Godly woman who seeks to know and be forgiven for her own sins, both of omission and commission.
Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.
Because Jane Austen has such wide appeal and her life has been studied from so many angles, this book will no doubt find its way into the hands of everyone from born-again believers to the unreligious. That being the case, Ms. Dodge does not presume that everyone who reads this book will claim to be a Christian or even have a dedicated time of prayer in their daily life. In spite of this, it is still a fascinating study of a rather untouched aspect of Jane Austen’s life and to the true Austen scholar, a worthwhile book placing these prayers in their proper historical and biographical context.
The opportunity of beginning a daily worship time, as the Austens enjoyed, is given, as well as encouraging help along the way, and for those who wish it, a full explanation of God’s plan of salvation is offered in the appendix. I see this book as a wonderful resource. I have read and written about Jane for years, and still found myself overwhelmed by the depth of her writing in these prayers, which I had never fully studied, as well as incredibly impressed by Ms. Dodge’s skill in bringing together so many aspects of Austen’s life. Both of these ladies felt like sisters in Christ as they jointly encouraged me in my Christian walk and prayer life over the course of the study.
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to preview this book and already know that it will be a go-to gift for other ladies in my life, both Austen fans and not, Christian or not. The joy of this work is that it has such a broad appeal, giving it the opportunity to impact far beyond the initial target audience. Praying with Jane was a delightful surprise, offering a fresh look at a familiar life. Ms. Dodge delivers a perfect blend of history and biography as she reveals the true heart of Jane Austen in this easy to use devotional format. Your prayer life will be challenged and deepened.
You can read Rachel Dodge's thoughts on writing Praying with Jane here
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)