Brian McLaren’s ‘Naked Spirituality’ distills prayer

This week, author Brian McLaren—one of the most influential Christian teaders in America—returns to ReadTheSpirit to talk about Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words, his newest book that distills the experience of faith into 12 words. That process of digging to the bedrock of faith—of finding “naked spirituality,” as Brian puts it—involves an approach to prayer that will be new to many readers.

TODAY, we’re going to give you a taste of what Brian is teaching about prayer in his new book. Truth be told, Brian actually is encouraging readers to experience centuries-old insights into prayer—but the way he presents these ideas will seem fresh and life-giving to many readers.

Stay tuned all week! On Tuesday, the remarkable grassroots activist Kent Annan returns from his work in Haiti to share a fresh prayer with us in the “Open My Eyes to …” series that so many readers have told is lighting up their lives this spring. On Wednesday, you’ll hear from Brian McLaren himself in our weekly interview. And there are surprises later in the week, as well!


In our in-depth interview with Brian McLaren later this week, you’ll learn much more about the power of the ideas in his newest book—but right here we’ve got a few samples of this fresh approach to prayer Brian is encouraging. Obviously, if you know your religious history, you’ll realize that he is tapping into ancient spiritual treasures, packaged in fresh ways.

The Celtic Christian writer John Philip Newell recently described this approach to prayer in a ReadTheSpirit interview in these words: I see the practice of prayer as allowing the deepest part of us to come up into awareness and expression. Prayer is not about beseeching a distant one to alter the mystery of reality, but rather prayer is about coming into tune with the deepest energies within us—the energies that I believe are of the One. The practice of prayer is bringing us back into relationship with that which is already among us and within us.

These words are a perfect introduction to Brian McLaren’s approach to prayer in his new book. Brian wants to help us, as readers, experience the “awe” that we have all but stamped out of our lives. There are 12 words—or 12 timeless spiritual themes—that Brian explores in his book. Then, Brian invites readers to start a regular practice of prayer focused on these 12 words. Actually, 11 of them are printed as actual words. One of the “words” he expresses as three dots—what readers might describe as an elipsies.

In his book, he usually prints that 12th word as: And those dots mean “Silence,” Brian says.


Brian writes: One simple word isn’t intended to preclude other words. Rather, by using the one word, you create space for other words to arise. So you can create and tend soul space with one word, but then let others flow as well. On my website, I’ve posted 12 prayers associated with the 12 practices that have emerged from my own experience. But more important and helpful to you than reading my words will be to compose some of your own. The following prompts can serve that purpose. My suspicion is that if you were to use these prompts again a month, a year, or a decade from now, very different responses would come, and you could trace the themes of your own spiritual story through subsequent responses to the same prompts.

Here I am, Lord,
(Where are you? Physically? Emotionally? Personally? Socially? Spiritually?)
And here you are, Lord.
(Describe your experience of or feelings about God at this moment. How would you name God today?)
Here we are together.
(How would you describe your togetherness with God?)

There are endless ways gesture and posture can be used to augment these simple prayers. Here are a few possibilities.
On the word HERE:
Hold your palms open and facing down, saying, “I am here in this place, now.” Then turn them upward, saying, “I am here in this place, open to you, God.”


Behold! Now I see—
(What previously resisted truth or insight do you now see in a new light?)
Behold! Now I feel—
(Describe how you feel and how it differs from what you felt before.)
Spirit of God, now I know—
(What new confidence has arisen within you?)

Hold your hands outward as if welcoming or beckoning, as if to say, “Let it come, let it be, let it be seen.”

SAMPLE 3: BRIAN MCLAREN ON THE WORD ‘…’ (a.k.a. Silence)

I am with you, Lord. As a …
(In what ways are you with God?)
We are together, living God, as one.
We. Amen.

BODY PRAYERS on the “word” written as
Rest your hands in your lap, one cradled in another or fingers interlaced, expressing your rest in God’s loving gaze.

REMEMBER: You can order Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words from Amazon.

Want more on Brian McLaren?

OTHER BRIAN McLAREN BOOKS and INTERVIEWS are described in our Brian McLaren Small Group Resources page..

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(Originally published at, an online magazine covering spirituality, religion, interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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