I am eager to share this book. You will find 365 daily reflections about my devotional attempts interspersed with events in my life that show personal bumps and bruises and spiritual ups and downs.

I am pleased that the book makes people laugh and think and brings prayer and spiritual yearning down to earth. And that it gives permission to people to experiment with prayer—anyway. The word “anyway” invites people in to their own wisdom and makes exploring prayer less lonely, less grand, more real. That pleases me.

Read this book:

To realize that even skeptics can pray
To laugh and wince at the bumpy life path of a kindred searcher
To experiment with praying—maybe
To honor your own ambivalence—it’s yours for a reason
To give up wrestling with spiritual questions—or not
To enjoy ‘prayers’ that are your kind of prayers—if you prayed
To be relieved that you are not alone in your discontent with religion

  • Praise

    "In I Pray Anyway, Joyce Wilson-Sanford shares with us a compilation of honest reflections that will resonate with anyone who finds oneself in the ‘messy middle’ when it comes to prayer and religion. Although you might well end up with more than one of Joyce’s insightful prayers taped to your bathroom mirror, there is an even greater gift that emerges from her collection as a whole—the inspiration to explore prayer even if you remain restless and uncertain about your relationship to organized religion."

    Professor of Biology

  • Praise

    “With enormous wit and wisdom, Joyce Wilson-Sanford lays bare her own struggles and stumbles in the process of developing a satisfying spiritual life, and in so doing gives everyone else permission to stumble. All in all, this is a truly refreshing read. Anyone tackling it will feel as though they are being asked to attend a Come as You Are Party – which is the oldest and most trustworthy spiritual invitation.”

    (The Rev.) Mary Cushman

  • Praise

    “If you have ever struggled with the institutions of religion yet always felt there is something bigger in life, read this book! It is a beautiful journey in a simple format of short prayers—unlike what you may assume—with a life story woven in. It can be savored, read a page a day, or devoured but either way it’s a great read. It allows one to reflect on your own personal journey, and what the heck...Pray Anyway!”

    Scott Harrison
    Business Executive

  • Praise

    “You might be ambivalent about prayer, but you’ll experience no ambivalence about Wilson-Sanford’s
    warmth, hope, humor…and wisdom.”

    Victoria Zackheim
    Author of Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists

  • Praise

    “Equally accessible to believers and skeptics, I Pray Anyway left me both smiling and sighing in understanding and recognition of the human experience so aptly captured in Joyce’s prayers.”

    Katherine Cauley, PhD
    Vice Chair and Professor, Department of Community Health
    Wright State University

  • Praise

    “This book is a beautiful bridge for all those who feel that prayer, God and the spiritual realm is way out there somewhere. Joyce Wilson-Sanford brings ‘prayer’ home to daily life, ongoing wrestlings and ultimately growth. It is authentic, humble, and full of mundane grit, a personal journal of her humanity and vulnerability as a seeker. I have used some of the prayers in teaching my Spirituality class. Everyone responds, because she speaks to us all!”

    Susan Howe

  • Praise

    “This is a lovely book—Joyce is open and vulnerable with her personal experience of prayer. She invites the reader to find his or her own way to communicate with the Divine. I am not yet where she is, and I may not get to the same place as she does, but it is good to have some hidebound assumptions questioned. Her example in this book helped me to consider doing that. I remain ambivalent, but less alone.”

    Dr. Anthony McCann, MD
    Doctor of Psychiatry

  • Praise

    “I thumbed to a page in I Pray Anyway, holding space to see whether this is a true book of assistance and guidance. My eyes landed, focused and read—one devotion will do—I am completely taken by the timeliness of the message and the spirit of action it invoked in me. This is not a book, but a wise and patient friend.”

    Thomas Furber
    Business Executive

Here is an excerpt from my book for you to sample for your own reflection. It has been interesting to hear which ‘reflections’ hit home with a reader and sparked an insight or a laugh. I hope it creates curiosity and questioning and your own exploration to “pray anyway.” Send your thoughts and reactions via my connect page—I love to hear from you.


—in fourth grade Sunday School
Mrs. Selye was my teacher
She inspired me
I decided to be a missionary
She gave us all a Bible
The New Standard Revised Edition
It was maroon and looked like a book not a ‘Bible’
Mrs. Selye did the unthinkable
She taught us how to write in our Bibles
Permission to underline
I was a bookworm
I read that book cover to cover
Stumbling determinedly
Through all the names and generations
I was fervent until sixth grade
When I put 2 and 2 together and rejected God
Got mad at God
Good and mad


Waking up to joy
Is sometimes easy
Like sliding into your slippers
Other days it takes discipline
Like dreaded sit-ups
Still, joy should be
The only option
For a new day


Let great big wonderful things be possible
Let’s quit dumbing down our hope
Why not why not why not wonderful?
Step me into free fall
Take my breath away
Let’s have marvels
We are at that point
The impossible is mandatory


I sit in it, but refuse to soften
I look again
Here is glory
A single blossom does it
How was I immune a moment ago?


A pedicure blocked my prayer
Needing one
Wanting one
Wondering if I could have one today
Over and over
A pedicure?
Blocking sweetness
Blocking comfort
Blocking love for others
A pedicure!


I take any path
I walk until a clearing opens
Then I stop
The paths go on and on
I continue


Hard not to see you as a person
You who are formless
You who are
Connection among hearts?
Force for good?
The universal ocean we swim in?
You are so not a person
Awesome and unknowable


Joy is a by-product
Of peace with what is
Happiness comes and goes
A joyride lasts forever


I’ve been gone so long
So busy living
Birthing, burying, caring
Avoiding the stillness
Feeling restless
So many ways to keep myself away
So I force myself
Here again
Trying again


I get hungry
My appetite is huge
I consume the wrong things
Food shoes books
Then I feed myself some silence
Some devotion
Some nothingness
And I am full


I hate wallowing in my
Crazy stuff
It’s so wasteful
So unkind to me
Pulling my feet out
Of the crazy glue
That sticks me
To all that gunk
Is beyond me


Tonight my prayer is tender
I am bashful
Wanting to step forward into belief
But straddling
An untenable position
And yet
I’m shy, embarrassed
To step forward with both feet
Been straddling for so long
If I take a step
I might fall over


I can be blind to my own abundance
It can hurt others
It can create distance
It can humiliate
Even while I share


A dentist-drill-morning from across the street
Cars needing help
New parts
Now light tapping
Rust removal
Then ready to roll
Just like a soul repair shop


So full of me
I need to whirl
Like a dervish
Until me is overwhelmed
And I disappear
Tough old ego


My heart cracks open
Flops like a filleted fish
Insides exposed
Contained pain
Burst the seams
Of my heart
That wants to love again


Be quiet me
This is for others
For hurting countries
For inadequate leaders
For hungry bellies
For unloved people
For the violence-addicted
For bodies fading
For shriveled souls
For pain bearers
For us all


So many people thinking they are right
Knowing truth about mystery
Trying to lock it down their way
Mystery won’t have it
So why not just
Know the ‘not knowing’
Be sure of that


I pray wrong and frustrated
Eyes squeezed shut
Can’t make it work
My neck is stiff
My mind buzzes
I work too hard
I can’t settle into prayer
I give up
Just show up


I am known for a kind of joy
Nothing makes me happier than a rule well broken
Just a little naughtiness makes my day
And so I don’t act my age
Mainly because I don’t know it
But I’ve decided to let myself get older
More deep peace
More forgiveness
More letting go of achievement
More noodling on the miracles
But I will always dance in the kitchen
And break a rule that needs it


So many thanks
So many
Allowing you to be possible
Makes life more interesting
And hopeful
What’s next?


Some of my prayer
Can get phony
I push for peace
When I need to express
The fear or rage or sorrow
Nagging to be relieved
Thank goodness
My dark side is a nag


Sour and cynical
I force myself to devotions
Who cares?
Guess I do
Cause here I am
Determined not to be comforted
Dedicated to being unhappy
All wrong
One black-eyed Susan settles me down
It’s just that today
Life hurts


Action or distraction is where I live
Rarely holding still
To be in peace
To align with harmony
Out of time
Is where I am
Timelessness is what I want


Why not believe?
Or live like you believe?
What’s the loss?
Compared to the gain?
More hope
More fun and adventure
More mystery
More guidance
More purpose
Why not believe?


Ego keeps knocking at my door
Even in prayer
Tickling me with ideas about me
Poor hard-working ego
Takes awhile to feel safe
Ego finally fades
Eased of that burden
Prayerfulness comes
Comfort and joy


Soft heart
Soft belly
Sadness emerges
Joy follows
Sweet pain
Not fun
But true


Am I talking to you?
Or am I talking to me?
My best me, but me?
Does it matter?
And no


Death has been chasing my tail
And I’ve been running
Give me the courage to turn around
Embrace it
Walk with it
No need to run
Make friends
Walk leisurely


Greedy Greedy Greedy
Needy Needy Needy
Gimme Gimme Gimme
Want it Want it Want it
The Wheel of Want
Give me a break


Oh, the divine is funny
I arrange for uninterrupted devotion time
Before words and tasks
Broken fridge
My husband is frantic about rotten food
He knocks
The choice is clear
And irritating
Pure clean love
Or everyday dirty love
Rotten cabbage
Here I come


I read
Wanting to know
To validate my experience
To split theological hairs
To find words to relieve my doubt
To support my cowardice
I shut the books
I pray anyway