In The 15-Minute Prayer Solution, author and senior Penguin Random House editor Gary Jansen shows how a commitment to fifteen minutes of daily prayer can awaken a relentless desire to place God at the center of everything. Just as you don’t exercise one day a week and expect to see results, the same is true of prayer. Forming a habit of daily prayer can transform our lives, but many of us need help in developing or deepening that habit. Enter Jansen’s book.
Aleteia recently interviewed Jansen about the distinctive Ignatian or Jesuit approach he takes to progressing in the interior life.
How can fifteen minutes of daily prayer make a difference in someone’s life?
At the heart of the book is a simple premise: there are 1,440 minutes in a day. One percent of that time is 14 minutes and 24 seconds, so roughly 15 minutes. What would happen if you dedicated just one percent of your life every day to God? I asked myself this question a few years ago, and the answers revolutionized my life. Despite spending a lot of time in church, I’ve always had difficulty focusing on prayer. But once I made a daily fifteen-minute commitment, what I call a micro-shift in perspective, almost instantly I felt more peaceful, more patient, more aware. I found myself praying throughout the day. And the more time I gave to God, the more I felt God giving me back time. I seemed to have more time to do the things I needed to do in my life, not less.
Why did you decide to focus on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola?
What I love most about Ignatius’s teaching was the simple idea of searching for God in all things. How can I find God in nature? In my family? In adversity? At work? On the streets? I loved the idea that God was very close, that I could enter a cathedral of everyday living and be in the presence of God at all times. I focused on the Exercises because I truly love the idea of finding God everywhere…in another person, in a paper clip, in science, or even in a tattoo.
Do you think there’s an increased interest in the Jesuit approach to prayer because of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit ever elected to the papacy?
I do. There is a lot of Ignatius in Pope Francis, how he stresses discernment and looking for Jesus in the eyes of the poor and those who struggle. In addition, many people have already been introduced to Jesuit spirituality in the U.S. because of Father James Martin and his books like The Jesuit’s Guide to Almost Everything and My Life with the Saints.
How much does your book draw on your personal prayer life?
The short answer is a lot. Even though I went to Catholic school for 12 years, I don’t think I ever learned to pray much more than the Our Father and Hail Mary. But some years ago I decided to try a number of different prayer techniques including lectio divina and praying with the imagination (a favorite of Ignatius). How I prayed and what I prayed made its way into the book because of the profound effect these prayers had on my life. Moreover, I’ve given workshops on a number of these prayer types and received very positive feedback.
As a senior editor with Crown Publishing at Penguin Random House, you have edited books by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Scott Hahn, Robert Barron and Christopher West. How have these experiences informed your writing style?
I feel blessed to have worked with so many great, thoughtful, and intelligent writers, and I learn something new with each book I edit. An editor is a guide, a shepherd helping to move the book through the wilderness of publication, pointing out when a writer might go astray, being his or her advocate and coach. My style developed through various influences, from the simplicity of Pope Francis’s prose to the poetry of Colleen Carroll Campbell’s writing to the logic of Bishop Barron’s arguments. I’m thankful to have been a shepherd for all these authors.
Is your book mainly for beginners in prayer or can it also help those looking to deepen their spiritual life?
It’s for both. My desire was to write a modern book about a traditional topic. I had two readers in mind when I wrote it: the beginner and the person who has been praying all of his or her life. I tried to write simply but in a way where the prose has layers of meaning. My hope is that no matter where you are on the spiritual path you’ll find something to make you ponder.
Karee Santos is the founder of the Can We Cana? blog and also has written for Catholic Match Institute, Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and CatholicMom.com. Together with her husband Manuel Santos, M.D., she co-authored The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime (Ave Maria Press, 2016). The Santos’s designed and taught a pre-Cana marriage preparation course, and they write a monthly marriage advice column on CatholicMom.com called “Marriage Rx.” They also contribute to FAITH magazine’s “Your Marriage Matters” advice column. The couple live in Long Island, New York, with their six children.