Worth Reading: The Possibility of Prayer
John Starke's latest offering, The Possibility of Prayer, is already in my shortlist for best book of the year for followers of Jesus. It comes at an appropriate time - there is demand for understanding rhythms of life lived in response to Jesus and an increasing pull toward spiritual direction - and it serves the needs of the church.
The book is clear and never drags on. In fact I felt invited further in with each chapter. Starke shares his own experience but not as one who has it all figured out but one on the same journey as you, leaning into life of contemplation and prayer.
This book actually does better in my opinion than the recent tranche of books on hurry and slowing down. Starke rightly orients the desires to solve those things with the gospel and a life in response to it. There is abundant grace on these pages and whether you count yourself as a prayer warrior or prayer novice, this is for you and will enrich you in your walk.
Here are some choice quotes from the book:
"The witness of Christian history is that the ambitious need quiet hearts. We need ancient paths for our modern, busy lives that teach us to be settled with God in an unsettling world."
"When we pray, we come with Christ into the mountain-melting presence of God. He is more intensely and densely real than anything else. This is not a god of religious experiences or a god to be manufactured for trivial comfort. He is ultimate reality. He is the God of all being. He is the God who confronts Moses at the burning bush, saying, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground....I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:5, 14)."
"If we come to the Bible and read it on its own terms, it will divide our hearts, separating us from our lusts and false loves. If we come to commune with God in his presence, we must be prepared for pain. He shows us where our hearts are in conflict with his heart, and he will bum away the chaff and purify us."
"The practice of prayer consists of primary rhythms (communion, me meditation, and solitude), and secondary rhythms (Sabbath resting, fas ting and feasting, and corporate worship). The word secondary shouldn't communicate "optional" or even "supplemental." Just as faith without works is dead and love without truth is trivial, primary and secondary rhythms of prayer depend on one another for vibrancy and life. Our personal times of communion, meditation, and solitude are enhanced by the regular rhythms of Sabbath rest, fasting and feasting, and corporate worship. And our rhythms of Sabbath rest, fasting and feasting, and corporate worship are deepened by our personal habits of communion, meditation, and solitude. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!"
"The individualistic streak in American Christianity balks at the importance of corporate worship. "As long as my relationship with Jesus is good, I'm good, we say. But the New Testament doesn't allow for that. The more we are alienated from other Christians, the more we will be alienated from Christ himself. It's a mystery, but that's how God has put it all together. We simply cannot depend on a personal prayer life for a healthy spiritual life or even an adequate one. Without other Christians and the experience of worshiping with them on a regular basis, our personal prayer lives will suffer. We need corporate worship. We need to gather regularly with other Christians to sing, pray, read, and hear God's Word, to receive the Lord's Supper, and to be sent back into the world full of peace and good news."
Find the book for yourself here.