Nimue Brown is a Druid author based in Stroud in Gloucestershire. When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond charts her personal exploration of prayer within her particular style of Druidry and in other world religions.
Nimue defines Druidry as ‘a spiritual dedication to seeking knowledge and developing skills and creativity for the good of your land and community.’ She describes herself as a ‘nontheist’ and ‘maybeist’. Writing from a position where the existence of deity is in doubt has ensuing implications for the development of the book and the topics it tackles.
Whilst animism and polytheism are mentioned broadly there is no detailed discussion of Pagan paths based on the presupposition of the existence of gods, such as Wicca, Heathenry and Brythonic and Gaelic polytheism. Instead Nimue covers philosophical issues such as to whom we pray, the ethics of prayer and practicalities such as how to craft Druid prayers and uses of prayer in Druid ritual.
The book charts Nimue’s progress from using prayer as a means of ‘saying hello’ to opening herself to the existence of the Kami of the Shinto religion who she describes as ‘spirits of peace and harmony’ to ‘standing before the unknown.’
For Nimue the core of prayer lies in being open to being changed from outside. She finds that whilst petition prayers do not work, prayers for inner strength, inspiration and the mental tools to handle difficult situations do. She ends by describing the effects that her prayer practice has brought to her life, opening her to a sense of ‘magical possibility.’
The style of the book is lively, engaging and conversational and holds an interest throughout. At some points I found it a little meandering but I think that is due to my preference for rigid, academic style arguments and structures.
If you are looking for a study on evidence for prayer in ancient Pagan religions citing inscriptions and textual references, or on prayer practices and experiences within contemporary deity focused Pagan paths this may not be the book for you.
However I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is interested in the philosophy, ethics and practicalities of prayer in Druidry and world religions, the thought processes that lie behind prayer and in personal accounts of transformation particularly from a nontheist perspective.