Esther de Waal provides readers with a very good overview of Celtic Christian spirituality by examining the subjects of their prayers. Wisely, she lets the prayers themselves do most of the talking; she refrains from long explications of them, a practice that allows the reader to project himself or herself into the situation and make personal applications more easily. This book particularly serves as a good introduction to Celtic Christianity for those unfamiliar with it.
If I have one major complaint with the book, it concerns de Waal's style: she responds to the prayers more from her head than her heart. Also, it might have been helpful to include a historical overview at times, but that's not the purpose of this book. (For a good historical overview, see Oliver Davies' introduction to Celtic Spirituality in Paulist Press' Classics of Western Spirituality series.) These are minor complaints, however, for a book that contains so many Celtic Christian prayers from down through the centuries.
Wow! This book is not what I expected. I was looking for a "how to" on prayer the "celtic way." What I got was a deep, and sometimes profound, look at prayer as a way of life. This book is not about sitting down to pray. It is about praying - morning, noon and night.
I was especially moved by the focus on the trinity and the cross in the prayer of the celtic people. De Waal devotes a chapter to each of these topics. She thoroughly demonstrates what she has to say, what she has come to practice in her own prayer life, with excellent examples from the prayers and poetry of celtic Christians and monks.
Another aspect, the one that took me deeper and farther than I expected to go, is the celtic idea of journeying. We journey through life (we all know this), and prayer is a living part of that journey (we often forget this). So true is her statement, "I shall not find Christ at the end of the journey unless he is with me along the way."
The final chapter on praise in the celtic prayerlife was wonderful. I found myself longing to hear the examples of praise put to music today. I think it would enrich the worship at my own church.
I enjoyed The Celtic Way of Prayer tremendously. Coming from a Protestant background I disagreed with the celtic worship of Mary that is sometimes revealed in De Waal's examples. However, anyone should be able to read beyond such a disagreement and be edified in their spiritual growth by applying the rich ideas from the celtic way of prayer in their own life. There is much to be gleaned from this book.