Book Reviews

“PRAYER” – FINDING THE HEART’S TRUE HOME    by Richard J. Foster

When the flysheet says “Widely considered the best modern book on Christian prayer” you are led to expect a lot. Members of our Book Group – come and join us if…..you would like to! – spoke highly of this scholarly yet accessible guide to praying, so we have all read and now discussed this comprehensive  “life-changing book [cover notes again] that explores the 3 movements of the central spiritual practice of praying. His sections are:

  1. Moving Inward – seeking the transformation we need
  2. Moving Upward – seeking the intimacy we need
  3. Moving Outward – seeking the ministry we need

Not quite ‘All Welcome’ – All Involved’ – ‘All Sent’….or is it?! He starts with ‘Simple Prayer’, moves on through ‘The Examen’ to prayers of adoration, unceasing prayer, contemplative, intercessory and healing prayers. He finishes his 21 chapters with radical prayer and quotes Karl Barth: “ To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world”.

Wow! – Prayer is, always was, a radical act and Richard Foster wants us all to do more praying. I think God does too, and first, actually.

Those in our group who had read and studied this excellent book found it less appealing and communicative to them this time around, which perhaps shows how something can ‘date’ since it was published in 1992. A couple of our members remarked that  they have a “problem with books that tell me what I should be doing!” though the author exposes his own vulnerability in many helpful illustrations, some of us still find just how little our prayer efforts really are – “Could do better”.

Well, we all could and God wants us to do better – get closer to Him… and enjoy it more. That’s the thrust of this extremely helpful, if, as aforementioned, daunting book. All of would benefit from reading, more than once, and stopping to let it sink in, this highly acclaimed authors efforts to encourage us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”.

We commend this book to you, John Sargent

 

‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence

With so much contemporary theology and spiritual writing of high quality in ready availability what’s a C21 book group doing reading the slim works of a C17 monk that you’ve never heard of?! You may well ask and you are warmly invited to join us. Apparently, this is a 17th. Century classic according to the half of us who had read it I hadn’t and was not thrilled with the prospect!

You have to rise to such challenges and, as I write this, PTSD is on the BBC News regarding its now recognised prevalence among young people in Britain. Well, Brother Lawrence no doubt suffered from it having been caught up in no less than the Thirty Years war.

Lawrence had received only a basic education and he didn’t even write the book for which he is celebrated over 300 years later. Now who else do we know who never wrote a thing yet is ‘widely read’ over 2000 years after his earthly life?! This lowly skilled Brother impressed both in the monastery and out in the streets with his warm character and wisdom. He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. So his wisdom was faithfully gathered through a series of conversations, letters and a collection of his ‘spiritual maxims’ by the Abbe Joseph de Beaufort, a notable cleric.

This slim volume [only 100 pages or so] has been constantly published across the globe in many languages and there are so many editions available, including on ‘kindle’ (the chosen vehicle for some of our group). Lawrence would have been amazed! Far from being a book of its time this is so contemporary. It is accessible, practical and easy to understand.

Brother Lawrence’s outlook would shame to most ardent ‘Brexiteer’, as he has only one thing to recommend: walk with God throughout every day and serve Him in all things you do, and when you’re not doing anything in particular. This is why folks cited Lawrence as we discussed ‘Rhythms of Grace’.

There is only a ‘Plan A’ for Lawrence: he resolved to make the love of GOD the end of all his actions. One message from a man who has found the key to daily spirituality, real Christian existentialism, moment by moment walking through life with the Creator.

We believe and know that God is with us all day, every day and everywhere, don’t we? But do we live as such? Lawrence set his heart and life to making the presence of God real and tangible and his fellows could see God shining out of him.

This short book of great wisdom: a collection of one single thought, has inspired church leaders, preachers and evangelists down the decades. Let it challenge and inspire you too! Remember,….. practice makes perfect.

“What does he Lord require of you. To do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”              Micah 6: 8

John Sargent