When life handed Jonathan J. Wolff lemons, he didn’t just make lemonade — he wrote a book, complete with a lemon-colored cover.
After seriously hurting his back in a fall down the stairs in 2001, Wolff, a member of St. Mary’s Parish in Waterloo, was out of work, in pain and depressed. He discovered that prayer and writing helped him, and turned his writings into a book, Understanding Prayer, which he published in 2004.
“It was the prayer that pulled me through all that. You get very depressed with all the pain, so I started writing this (book). I just started writing, and it probably was a form of therapy,” Wolff said. “I just kept on writing, and finally it turned into a book. I decided this is something I’d like to share with everyone.”
Wolff wrote about prayer, which he defines in his book as “a personal aspiration of the soul through one’s active faith inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Someone who actively practices his faith will develop a relationship with God through his prayer life, Wolff said. In his 110-page book, Wolff also explains the four different types of prayer — formal, inspirational, meditative and contemplative — and shares some of his personal experiences with each.
Wolff also devotes a good portion of the book to the rosary, explaining what it is and how to pray it. He recounts each mystery of the rosary, including the Luminous Mysteries, and each mystery is accompanied by a short prayer. These prayers could be used while saying the rosary or used as separate passages in meditative prayer, he explains in the book.
Toward the end of the book, Wolff includes a section on the problems of spiritual dryness and spiritual loneliness and suggests ways of overcoming these problems. He also shares information and experiences about what he calls “dark-night experiences,” or the way a person feels after the shock of a life-changing, traumatic event wears off.
Wolff describes his book as “a blueprint of what prayer is all about,” and said that others have referred to it as “a primer for prayer.” Although he at one time considered the priesthood, Wolff is not a theologian. Nevertheless, this is precisely what makes him confident that his book will find its niche among other religious literature, he said. Most books about prayer are written by theologians or scholars and include jargon and words that the average layperson doesn’t understand without a dictionary, he said.
“I thought for the average layman it would be a good idea just to put it into vernacular,” Wolff said. “For all Christians, it’s something that they can pick up and (use to) work on their own prayer lives.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Understanding Prayer is available for $10 at M & P Custom Creations, 1282 Waterloo-Geneva Road, Waterloo. To purchase a copy directly from the author, send $13 (which includes shipping and handling) to Jonathan Wolff, 343 E. Main St., Waterloo, NY 13165.