Book Review: Prayer
Author: Richard Foster
Publisher: Harper One ISBN: 9780060628468
Oh, how I love this book. From start to finish and all points in between it is and has been a joyful companion along the way of my personal prayer journey. My only regret regarding this book is not finding it sooner.
“Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” St. John Vianney
There is almost too much I could say that is good about Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home for a single review article, so I will mention the points that are some of my favorites. First, the form that Foster uses to navigate this journey into prayer is delightfully instructive. He has chosen to outline the book into three major sections he titles Moving Inward: Seeking the Transformation We Need, Moving Upward: Seeking the Intimacy We Need, and Moving Outward: Seeking the Ministry We Need. Each of these sections contains seven chapters respectively, which form the many facets that make prayer the beautiful diamond it is in the relationship between man and God.
Second, regarding these individual chapters, I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration into ancient prayer practices that have helped form disciples into the image of God throughout the history of humankind’s reconciliation to Him. A few examples of these prayer practices from the first section are The Prayer of Examen, developed by Ignatius of Loyola, The Prayer of Relinquishment, modeled by the self-emptying life of Jesus Christ, and what Foster calls Formation Prayer, which is modeled in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, the Rule of Benedict, and the Little Way of Therese of Lisieux. Section two is vertically focused (Love God) and more on the relational facets of prayer as the title Seeking the Intimacy We Need suggests. In this section, we find prayer practices and exercises that lead us into acts of adoration, rest, meditation, and contemplation. The third section, Moving Outward, follows a more horizontal aspect (Love man) and practices prayer exercises that manifest themselves in community relations; for example, Petitionary Prayers, Intercesssory Prayers, and Healing Prayers are included in this collection.
When the Spirit has come to reside in someone, that person cannot stop praying; for the Spirit prays without ceasing in him. No matter if he is asleep or awake, prayer is going on in his heart all the time. He may be eating or drinking, he may be resting or working–the incense of prayer will ascend spontaneously from his heart. The slightest stirring of his heart is like a voice which sings in silence and in secret to the Invisible. –Isaac the Syrian
Another point of mention that I enjoyed greatly about this book is the diversity of source material that Foster includes in his teaching. In addition, the great majority of this source material is well annotated in the index section of the book, which includes a bibliographical reference in the notes, a subject index, and a Scripture index as well.
One more very nice feature that brought smiles to my heart was the opening quotes from influential Christians spanning the history of our faith; I loved receiving these words as encouragement, inspiration, and challenge. Additionally, each chapter ends in a prayer or benediction relative to the exercise and practice that was previously described.
In my opinion, this book has been sorely missed in the circles of Evangelical Protestant churches of which I have been a part. The prayer experiences I have encountered and shared with others have been largely one-dimensional and often self-focused and self-directed. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is a wonderful and helpful corrective step in the right direction. As I said in my opening statement, my one regret is this book was not known to me sooner. If you are curious about the Christian prayer experience, this is a good place to start.
“May you now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, receive the spirit of prayer. May it become, in the name of Jesus Christ, the most precious occupation of your life. And may the God of all peace strengthen you, bless you, and give you joy. –Amen.” (p.256)