Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Prayer finding the heart's true home by Richard Foster.

I was given this book several years ago by a friend with whom I am distant from at the moment, though I think about her lots.  She got it for me after we had been to a local Christian womens event and listened to a very wise older lady speak about Prayer.  During this ladies talk (very ashamed to say I cannot remember her name) she mentioned this book - a few days later my friend presented it to me.  I tried to read it several times and never managed to really get into it, just dipping in for the odd bit here and there.  However in this time of rest which I now find myself in I felt prompted to get it back out of my bedside drawer where it has been residing and start at the beginning.

Isn't it just wonderful when you read a book and find it speaking to you like a dear friend.  This is the experience I have had with this book, when I have one of my regular middle of the night awake hours it has been a blessing to pick up and listen to with my eyes and heart.

I found myself doing something that I have never done before, when I read something that really jumped out at me I turned the corner of the page over.  In the past I have really struggled with remembering where in a book certain things are,  I have tried underlining, but that doesn't work if you can't remember where in a big book you underlined!  By corner turning I have been able to move on from a subject knowing I can easily return to it.  After finishing the book yesterday, I took a break and then when I went to bed last night I went over the 8 pages that were turned.  I had to read the whole page to find out what bit had spoken to me, but there it still was, I knew it as soon as I found it. 

In this book Richard Foster goes through all the different types of prayer that he feels God wants us to encompass, they are all biblically based.  Each prayer type is explained, given its bible basis and then examples of its uses given and peoples experiences of using it.  In some ways it is quite a basic book, however it is extreemely well referenced and I will most certainly be looking out for some of the titles he has quoted from.

I thought I would write seven of the points that spoke to me down in this blog, giving me another reminder for the future. I think they all spoke to me in different ways and I know that some of them are going to be points for me to meditate on further in the future.  I have written down the chapter and page number and they are all in progressional order through the book.

1.  Unceasing Prayer, page 131.

"The second major expression of Unceasing Prayer is associated with such practitioners of prayer as Brother Lawrence (The Practise of the Presence of God), Thomas Kelly (A testament of Devotion) and Frank Lauback (Letters by a Modern Mystic).  Their profoundly simple approach is to go through all the activities of our days in joyful awareness of God's presence with whispered prayers of praise and adoration flowing continuously from the herts.  Brother Lawrence who called himself 'the lord of all pots and pans' crystallized this idea in his now famous comment ' the time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament'."

Something I have learned well this last year is that God is ALWAYS with us, we might not feel him close by because our pain and suffering is so great but he is THERE, crying and wounded with us.  If in the pain we can just grab onto or cuddle into his outstretched arms in the midst of all noise and clatter there is a peace to be found, the pain the noise and the clatter won't necessarily disappear but there is a peace as well.

2.  Intercessory Prayer, page 211.

"Drawing upon the prophet Isiah, Jesus declares, 'My house shall be a house of prayer' (Isa 56:7; Luke19:46).  I would love to see our churches become houses of prayer.  I know you would, too.  All too often however, they are places for everythings and anything except prayer.  I say this with sorrow, for I believe it saddens the heart of God.  True, we need to have our business meetings and our committee meetings and our Bible studies and our self-help groups and our worship services, but if the fire is not hot at the centre, these things are only ashes in our hands."

All I can say to this is Amen, we seem to have had a lot of experience in the churches we have attended of this.  It makes my heart weep, we have also been blessed with experiencing a church where it is not the case, where prayer IS at the heart of everything (or was while we were there).  The result of this is an army of new leaders being raised up in all sorts of Church and charity work - and that's just from the small group of folk with whom I was friends with (it was a 500+ congregation).  I do however have a great feeling of HOPE growing in my heart for our Parish as we approach the time when our new Vicar will arrive.

3.  Healing Prayer, page 217

"Furthermore we can be greateful for every co-operative effort of the many branches of healing.  After all, the distinction between priest and psychologist and physician is of recent vintage.  Always before, the physician of the body, the physician of the mind, and the physician of the spirit were the same person.  The ancient Hebrews, in particular, saw persons as a unity, and for them it would be unthinkable to minister to the body without ministering to the spirit and vice versa."

Healing prayer is a subject close to my own heart, having suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis for over 13 years now.  As you can imagine there has been a fair amount of healing prayer offered and requested during this time.  I have had some very 'poorly' times when I have only been able to work a few metres at a time.  I have also had some quite 'well' times, when medication has given me several years of stability.  The last couple of years have not been good, interesting though it has not just been my physical body that has been suffering during this time, I have also had to cope with the death of my sister, caring for my parents and grandparent and taking on kinship care of my sisters 12 year old daughter.  My spiritual life has suffered to, we moved churches so that I could take up a job with the new one, this was a step of faith as it is most definately NOT the type of church we would choose to worship in for ourselves.  With all the other things going on in life I have not been able to settle into my job and am now currently on 6 months unpaid leave.  On top of all this my training as an Occupational Therapist makes me all to aware of the importance of Holistic (mind, body and spirit) health care.  There is movement in my life on this whole subject at the moment, but it is too early to talk about at the moment - but I am hoping the time will come for me to share it.

4.  The Prayer of Suffering, page 235

"Another value: our hearts are enlarged and sensitezed by suffering.  We become 'wounded healers', as Henri Nouwen has taught us to say.  Gone for ever are the pat answers that zip, zap - make everything fine.  We wndure the agony that prepares us to enter into the anguish of others. 'The more love sandpapers our hearts,' writes Glenn Hinson, 'the more it quickens us to suffering.'  We come to recognize the suffering of our time in our own hearts, and that becomes the starting point for ministy."

Pat answers - now that is a subject I hope I never take for granted.  I am sure I have dished out many in my time of thinking I was HELPING others.  For all those times I am now so truly sorry, I now know how sharply they can pierce a suffering heart.  The best lesson I have learnt through my suffering is how much value there is in silence - not solitude, we need to know people are thinking about us and have their company somtimes.  To have peoples love, not their words has often been just what I have needed.  This won't be the same for everyone I am sure, but I am now aware there may be others for whom this is what they need.

5.  Authoritive Prayer, page 247

"'Prudence' says C S Lewis, 'means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.'  It is a virtue that is in short supply today.  Some people, once they understand the authority they have in Christ, seem to lose all good sense...and good manners.  They go round ordering this and that to happen in the most unking and destructive of ways.  Jesus never did that.  he knew when to speak and when to be silent.  He was always appropriate to the situation in which he found himself.  Even his teachings are filled with good, ordinary 'horse sense'."

Again I am sure this is something I have failed to comply to in the past, and I am very sorry for this. I am growing aware of the need to keep check on what 'I' think should be happening and concentrate and wait for confirmation sometimes to make sure I am listening for what HE wants to be happening.

6.  Radical Prayer, page 266

" A venerable old sage once asked his disciples, 'How can we know when the darkness is leaving and the dawn is coming?'

'When we can see a tree in the distance and know that it is an elm and not a juniper' ventured one studen. 'When we can see an animal and know tht it is a fox and not a wolf,' chimed in another.

'No,' said the old man, ' those things will not help us.'

Puzzled, the students demanded, 'How then can we know?'

The master teacher drew himself up to his full stature and replied quietly, 'We know the darkness is leaving and the dawn is coming when we can see another person and know that this is our brother or our sister; for otherwise, no matter what time it is , it is still dark.'"

WOW is all I felt when I read this, I so want to see others in this LIGHT.

7.  Radical Prayer, page 269

" Those seeking communal expressions of Christian community must wrestle with major issues: how to maintain proper authority without becoming authoritarian, how to maintain a high level of intentional community life without becoming ingrown, how to make this way of life accessible to families with small children and couples who are highly mobile.  Vigorous prayers need to arise for prophetic vision to create new solutions to old problems"

Boy is this a prayer of my own heart, sometimes I feel that my drive to find/see created the type of church that I feel comfortable worshipping in as extreemely selfish.  However I also am sure God has reminded me over and over that though even though I am individually made, there are many like me, and if I can find nowhere, then maybe there are others in the same boat.  Even more on my heart is the fact that if there are other Christians like me who do not feel they have a comfortable communal place to worship, how on earth are all their 'non' Christian friends every going to see the JOY that can exist in a community of Christians.

Well I think this is the longest blog I have written to date (mind you I had to use some other peoples words!).  I do so pray that I will not forget what I have read and written and that God will keep me growing.

Does anyone else have ways of remembering things they have read?

holy experience


  1. I know using the library is a good, useful thing, cost effective, among many other things, but then I can't write in my books. I put my own footnotes in my books. Usually in the back, with a 'link'(number or letter) in the back correlating to the number on the page. I used to turn down corners(still do) but then every page, it seems some times is turned down! ha, in a really good book.
    I do a combination, but I never hesitate to write in books. I teach little children about writing in their Bibles that we use great care and only when we are old enough to write things that will help us remember what God wants for us to learn.
    I have found to that I write in fiction books too. Often there are numerous references to good learning material there too,
    Thanks for the reference to Foster's book. Sounds excellent! I love his 'Celebration of Discipline' & 'the Challenge of Discipline'. Have never read 'prayer'.
    have a blessed day- Laura

  2. I own this book and also have only dipped into it from time to time. I hope that I'll some day have the time to read it cover to cover. Thanks so much for the lovely overview -- I can't wait to read it myself.

    My favorite Lenten read is Foster's Devotional Classics. I believe that there are 40 readings (although not intended for Lent) of writers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therese, Watchman Nee, Dallas Willard, CS Lewis, Saint Julian of Norwich -- saints ancient and modern, with study questions at the end of each reading. I just got the idea of doing this study as an online group. What do you think?

  3. This book has been on my shelf, unread, for quite awhile. I can see that it will need to come down soon. Thanks for the reminder. Aloha *;)

  4. I have this book, too! It's not one that I sit and read for long periods of time, but one I can pull out periodically for meditative prayer. Thanks for reminding me how good it is. And how good our Father is to always listen to us pray.


  5. I'm so glad that you got so much out of Richard Foster's book. I've read it also. I had to laugh when you wrote about folding the page corners. I have a habit of doing that too. It's a great way to find that place that really spoke to you. Keep on reading and praying.


  6. thank you for all your comments, lovely to meet you, Debbie, Lisa, Karelin, Laura and Heather.

    Susanne, I love the idea of an on-line group study - have never done anything like it before though - so don't really know what it would entail........

  7. This post is great. I haven't read Prayer by Foster in years and I loved your recaps. It makes me want to pull it out again. The prayer of relinquishment had a big impact in my life during our years of infertility.