A few weeks ago, I received a new book in the mail, An Inner Step Toward God (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2014) by Alexander Men. Before receiving this book, I had not heard of the martyred Russian Orthodox priest. A quick internet search led me to learn more about this fascinating Christian figure. However, this blog entry is not intended to be a bio of Fr. Men; click here for his bio.
Paraclete Press has made available Men’s writing about prayer for the first time in English. April French is a scholar who edited Men’s works to put together An Inner Step Toward God, and Christa Belyaeva translated his writings into quite readable English. After a good introduction to Men and his thought, the book is organized into four parts: An Inner Step, A Practical Guide to Prayer, Prayer and Great Lent, and Prayer and the Communion of Saints.
The first part, An Inner Step, presents Men’s foundation of prayer. Chapter one is an edited transcription of a conversation about prayer as an inner journey. The second chapter is more formal and is from a lecture Men delivered about encountering God. One of the interesting points for a Western reader is Men’s focus on posture. He makes a convincing argument that posture is important in prayer.
Part two, consisting of seven chapters, is a Soviet-era instruction book on prayer circulated by Men in the underground church. Although it is targeted at new Christians or those who have not been in an active congregation, the instruction is good. His advice is sound and quite practical.
An Inner Step Toward God includes four appendices. The first three are instructional; they provide a step by step guide for praying. The last appendix gives some examples of Orthodox prayers. The Notes include cross-reference sources and translator’s explanations. There is also a glossary for readers who are unfamiliar with Orthodox terms.
Below, please find a video of the editor April French describing the project of putting this book together.