Well-known Catholic blogger Barb Szyszkiewicz aimed to reach two audiences when she was writing The Handy Little Guide to Prayer: beginners looking for ways to start praying and those who “are running into obstacles to prayer, feel distracted, like they are not getting an answer or just don’t feel like it.”

“I was hoping (readers) would realize that prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or look the same every time you are making the effort to connect with God,” said Szyszskiewicz, editor of the widely-read website CatholicMom.com and author of her own popular blog, FranciscanMom.com.

From the reactions of readers posting their reviews on the internet, the 71-page tract on praying, out recently from Our Sunday Visitor at $5.95, meets those expectations and then some. They praise Szyszskiewicz’ flowing, easy to read prose for the way it opens the door to novices and those well versed in prayer alike.

Arranged in a question-and-answer format, the booklet explores who should pray (everyone), what prayer is and how to pray.

Included are sections on what the Scriptures and saints tell the faithful about prayer. Complicated issues – what to do if you don’t if you don’t feel anything when praying or when prayers seemingly go unanswered – are presented in straight forward ways.

Szyszskiewicz said that she had been asked by OSV’s editorial board to take on the project and once her outline (concept) was approved, she faced the realization that “this was a big topic” which would be the newest in the Little Guide series that includes Spiritual Communion, Adoration and Lent.

What the series aims for, she said, is to have booklets that are “something you can share with a friend.” She said she found putting the booklet together a challenging experience she had to meet “in a couple of months, happening in the middle of family health emergencies and a pandemic.”

“It was crazy, and I found it extra challenging,” she said.

But she met the changing circumstances by drawing on her reserves of Catholic faith, and her own very active prayer life.

Raised in a devout Catholic family, she attended Catholic elementary and high schools when she was growing up in Paterson and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish education from Scranton’s Marywood University and a masters in English from Notre Dame University, Ind.

A Secular Franciscan and longtime member of Delran’s Resurrection Parish where she attends daily Mass and is also a music minister, she and her husband Stephen are the parents of three children: Stephen, 29, Joanna, 25 and Luke, a student at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

She said that prayer anchors her family life and her writing career. She prayed without ceasing while organizing and writing the Little Guide to help her through the challenges.

Among them was the fact that she could not access the Adoration Chapel where she sometimes goes to write.

“Because of the pandemic, it was closed, she said. So instead, she drove to the church, parked by an outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother, focused on the tabernacle which she could see through the window and directed her prayers through the distance.

It’s but one perfect example of those she sprinkles throughout the booklet of ways to pray no matter the situation. In fact, in concluding the booklet, she shares a personal reflection about how “when I needed to help my family and could not attend daily Mass, I could still pray the Rosary and listen to praise music during long drives.”

“I could still pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening. I could still read and pray over the Mass Readings each day. When circumstances close a particular prayer option for you,” she wrote, “prayer is still an option.”

The Handy Little Guide to Prayer is available at through Our Sunday visitor at www.orderosv.com, Amazon at www.amazon.com, Barnes and Noble at www.barnesandnoble.com and Catholic gift and Catholic book and gift stores including For Heaven Sake in Spring Lake Heights.