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An Interview with August Gold and Joel Fotinos

Authors of "The Prayer Chest"

by New World Library

Authors of "The Prayer Chest"What was the inspiration for THE PRAYER CHEST?

The inspiration for THE PRAYER CHEST began as a dream. Joel had a dream one night where he was walking into a bookstore. As he was passing the tables full of books, he saw a display of a book called THE PRAYER CHEST, and as he looked closer, he saw it was written by him and his creative partner, August Gold. The next morning, at lunch with August, Joel mentioned the dream to August who immediately said, “Let’s do it.” August created a first draft in six weeks. Each week we would talk about the characters, ideas, and plotting, and the book took shape.

The creative inspiration behind the book was a desire to make the process and practicality of prayer accessible to as many people as possible.

Why prayer as the subject matter?

Prayer is something that everyone on earth does at one point or another – oftentimes at the lowest point of their life. But there is great confusion about prayer. They often think they don't know how to pray or that they're praying incorrectly. So prayer in a story like THE PRAYER CHEST allows readers to learn how to pray along with the characters.

Why did you write the book as a fiction story and not a self-help book, because it really is about prayer and how to pray?

Stories are universal. Stories bypass the critical mind and go right to the heart, which means the message of the story can enter into a person’s deep-felt experience in a way that a self-help never could.

You have said that one of the book’s messages is for prayer to become a conversation instead of just a plea for help. Please elaborate!

Most people begin to pray when they are in adversity. When you are in trouble, it is the natural thing to do. They go to prayer for assistance outside of themselves. And what's interesting about this book is that prayer becomes a conversation instead of just a plea for help.

Do you pray? If so, please describe what your prayer life if like.

We do pray, and THE PRAYER CHEST describes our relationship with prayer perfectly. When we pray, we remember three things. First, we know that when we pray for anything, the answer to our prayer has to come through us. Prayer doesn’t come to you, it comes through you. This truth is radically different than what many people believe about prayer. Most people expect change to happen to others around them. The prayer we are writing about is about opening yourself to be changed in order to receive the answer to your prayer. Second, prayer is 90% listening. Third, the moment we put our prayer “out,” our work then is to welcome everything that Life brings us from that point forward, no matter whether it looks like the answer to our prayer or not. Welcoming everything means welcoming the “dark” as well as the “light”; oftentimes the dark experiences come to us because they are what stands in the way of receiving the answer to our prayer.

According to THE PRAYER CHEST, all prayers are answered with what is prayed for, or what stands between you and what you’ve prayed for. Can you talk more about the things that stand between us and our prayer requests?

Here’s a common example. Many women pray to find their true love. They prayer for an unconditional love when in fact they carry within them, usually from childhood, a mistrust of love, or a belief that love hurts, or even that love is dangerous. As a result, when they pray for love, they will be receiving the result of their belief, and that result is what stands in their way in order for it to be revealed and healed. When they become aware of this, they can be open to receive the true love they desire. What’s important to remember about prayer is that we don’t receive what we want, we receive a reflection of who we are.

At one point in the story, the main character Joseph throws away everything in the attic – why does he do that? How does throwing things away help us create something new?

Let’s say something radical. Most people on a spiritual or even a religious path mistakenly believe that anger is bad. Our experience is that anger is a normal, healthy, and even necessary response at times. The spiritual path is not about being good, it’s about being real. This means, when we are feeling angry, it is essential to release that anger in a safe way.

Joseph did just that, and only when he did that was he able to have the power he needed to make a change in his life. What was his change? He had to let go of the old baggage in his life – he threw out all the old belongings. This is symbolic of throwing out his old beliefs about himself, life, God, and faith. This kind of housecleaning – both literal and figurative – is precisely what allows us to make room for something new.

What is the symbolism of the attic in the story? How can we “go higher” in our own lives?

The attic is a symbol of living in our minds, of being “head” centered rather than being “heart” centered. Not the sentimental “heart” – but the heart that contains the wisdom of our intuition. The spiritual journey that most people take is not from where they are now in their lives to where they want to be. The real spiritual journey is a much shorter distance – it is the distance from the head to the heart.

How can we do that in our own lives? The single most important spiritual practice of them all is to breathe deep. At some point in our childhood – for many of us – something happened that surprised us, or hurt us; it took our breath away. In that moment we learned that if we don’t breathe too deeply, we don’t have to feel the pain of it too deeply in our bodies. That’s when we learned that living upstairs – from the neck up, in our “attic” – was less painful, and felt safer than living in our bodies. We went upstairs, and experienced life from there. The three secrets of prayer bring us downstairs into our bodies, the only place where prayer can be answered – through us.

The character Charlie is first introduced as a “villain” in the novel, but then becomes a part of the answer to Joseph’s prayer. Is it common for things in our lives that seem like a burden, to actually be gifts in disguise? Can you share an example?

D.H. Lawrence, in his poem The Song of a Man Who Has Come Through, calls these disguised gifts “three strange angels” and he says to “admit them, admit them.” Because the answer to our prayer often comes disguised so strangely – as “loss” or “rejection” or “betrayal” – it’s difficult for us to see and accept that the experience as a divine gift.

A lovely woman who was a client prayed for her relationship with her boyfriend to go to “the next level.” Within the month, he dumped her and asked her to move out of his apartment. She was stunned that this could be the answer to her prayer. But the third secret of prayer invites us to welcome even the “three strange angels” because while they might seem strange, they come bearing the gifts we seek. Within the year, the woman met a new man, whom she calls unabashedly “her soulmate.” She had never even dared pray for a love like this one. It was beyond her wildest dreams.

When we pray, we either get what we pray for or what stands in our way. Many people don’t realize that by continuing to settle for less in the relationship they are currently in, it stands in the way of the true relationship they long for… and that longs for them.

THE PRAYER CHEST says that everything that happens to us, even those things that appear to be negative, can be a tool to help us realize our destiny. Do you have advice as to how we can remember that when the going gets tough?

Life is a conversation. In order to move forward in our life wisely and well, we need to enter the conversation. To do that, we have to stop asking “why is this happening to me.” We have to ask a different question: “why is this happening for me?” When we do, we will begin to see the deeper story of our lives – the context within which the content of our lives is happening. Only the deeper story can reveal to us the truth – that all of life is a movement toward our wholeness.

What advice would you give to someone who has never had a prayer life and is unsure about how to start one? How can people begin to put the ideas of this book into action in their lives?

Prayer and a prayerful life can feel intimidating to people. Using a physical prayer chest makes the concept of prayer more real. It can be grounding. It can give you something to hold onto during those times when everything seems to be changing in your lives. Just like Joseph, we would suggest writing your prayer on a piece of paper and slipping it into a prayer chest (perhaps one that you’ve made or purchased) and seeing what happens. Keep in mind, any container can become a prayer chest. In doing so, you are turning your prayer over to Life, and then practicing the three simple secrets of prayer – which are in this book – to see what happens.

Prayer is answered when you let it move through you, and you listen, and you welcome everything that comes. Answered prayers never come to us, they come through us.

The Prayer Chest

October 15, 2011 • Fiction/Personal Growth • 208 pages • Trade pback & eBook

Price: $13.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-049-8

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