Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home

( 17 )

Overview

Best-selling author Richard J. Foster offers a warm, compelling, and sensitive primer on prayer, helping us to understand, experience, and practice it in its many forms-from the simple prayer of beginning again to unceasing prayer. He clarifies the prayer process, answers common misconceptions, and shows the way into prayers of contemplation, healing, blessing, forgiveness, and rest.

Coming to prayer is like coming home, Foster says. "Nothing feels more right, more like what we ...

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Overview

Best-selling author Richard J. Foster offers a warm, compelling, and sensitive primer on prayer, helping us to understand, experience, and practice it in its many forms-from the simple prayer of beginning again to unceasing prayer. He clarifies the prayer process, answers common misconceptions, and shows the way into prayers of contemplation, healing, blessing, forgiveness, and rest.

Coming to prayer is like coming home, Foster says. "Nothing feels more right, more like what we are created to be and to do. Yet at the same time we are confronted with great mysteries. Who hasn't struggled with the puzzle of unanswered prayer? Who hasn't wondered how a finite person can commune with the infinite Creator of the universe? Who hasn't questioned whether prayer isn't merely psychological manipulation after all? We do our best, of course, to answer these knotty questions but when all is said and done, there is a sense in which these mysteries remain unanswered and unanswerable . . . At such times we must learn to become comfortable with the mystery."

Foster shows how prayer can move us inward into personal transformation, upward toward intimacy with God, and outward to minister to others. He leads us beyond questions to a deeper understanding and practice of prayer, bringing us closer to God, to ourselves, and to our community.

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Editorial Reviews

John Ortberg
“This book is a rare gift... both a guide to prayer and an answer to one.”
Tony Campolo
“This book has helped me immensely in my struggles for spiritual vitality and depth.”
Eugene H. Peterson
“A master teaching on the Master Subject.”
Brennan Manning
“As one fairly fluent with words, I am hard-pressed to express the impact of this timeless classic on my life. Richard Foster’s book is invaluable now, but not quite as invaluable as it will be a hundred years from now.”
Robert Webber
“...takes the mystery out of prayer and returns it to the ordinary rhythmsof life”
Dallas Willard
“You will not find a better guide. This is a landmark book.”
Rev. John Loren Sandford and Rev. Paula A. Sandford
“Magnificent! ... carried us into communion with Christians of every century and denomination.”
Lewis B. Smedes
This wonderful book about prayer could only come from a person whom God has made powerful through prayer. It is a great gift. It taught me and encouraged me to accept God's invitation to me, too, to walk with him upon the path of prayer . . . .
Eugene H. Peterson
Richard Foster takes us into the huge forest of prayer and names each tree, points out what is distinctive in each bush and flower. After a few hours in his company, the profusion of detail that at first overwhelmed and bewildered us now delights us, pulling us deeper into the forest . . . .
Luci Shaw
Once again, in penetrating deep, Richard Foster has shown the way for others to enter and experience prayer at a profound heart-level—not just a place of emotion and sentiment, but a focus point where the human spirit is transformed and enjoys a new oneness with God. This is life-changing reading!
Library Journal
Foster, Quaker theologian and best-selling author, provides an excellent and comprehensive survey of 21 forms of Christian prayer. He groups the sections around three movements (inward, upward, and outward) which address three human needs (transformation, intimacy, and ministry). Foster presents the best thinking of various church traditions to help the reader feel drawn to prayer and to a restored and deeper relationship with oneself, God, and others. This is one of the best, most comprehensive, yet accessible introductions to prayer that this reviewer has seen. Highly recommended for all libraries.
Reverend - John Loren Sandford and Paula A. Sandford
"Magnificent! ... carried us into communion with Christians of every century and denomination."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060628468
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 190,313
  • Product dimensions: 5.73 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Foster is the author of several bestselling books, including Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water, Life with God, and Prayer, which was Christianity Today's Book of the Year and the winner of the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. He is the founder of Renovaré, an organization and a movement committed to the renewal of the church of Jesus Christ in all its multifaceted expressions, and the editor of The Life with God Bible.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

SIMPLE PRAYER


Pray as you can, not as you can't.  -- Dom John Chapman




We today yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are attracted to it and repelled by it. We believe prayer is something we should do, even something we want to do, but it seems like a chasm stands between us and actually praying. We experience the agony of prayerlessness.

We are not quite sure what holds us back. Of course we are busy with work and family obligations, but that is only a smoke screen. Our busyness seldom keeps us from eating or sleeping or making love. No, there is something deeper, more profound keeping us in check. In reality, there are any number of "somethings" preventing us, all of which we will explore in due time. But for now there is one "something" that needs immediate attention. It is the notion--almost universal among us modern high achievers-that we have to have everything "just right" in order to pray. That is, before we can really pray, our lives need some fine tuning, or we need to know more about how to pray, or we need to study the philosophical questions surrounding prayer, or we need to have a better grasp of the great traditions of prayer. And on it goes. It isn't that these are wrong concerns or that there is never a time to deal with them. But we are starting from the wrong end of things-putting the cart before the horse. Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master the way we master algebra or auto mechanics. That puts us in the "on-top" position, where we are competent and in control. But when praying, we come "underneath," where we calmly and deliberately surrendercontrol and become incompetent. "To pray," writes Emilie Griffin, " means to be willing to be naive."

I used to think that I needed to get all my motives straightened out before I could pray, really pray. I would be in some prayer group, for example, and I would examine what I had just prayed and think to myself, "How utterly foolish and self-centered; I can't pray this way!" And so I would determine never to pray again until my motives were pure. You understand, I did not want to be a hypocrite. I knew that God is holy and righteous. I knew that prayer is no magic incantation. I knew that I must not use God for my own ends. But the practical effect of all this internal soul-searching was to completely paralyze my ability to pray.

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives-altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it.

Jesus reminds us that prayer is a little like children coming to their parents. Our children come to us with the craziest requests at times! Often we are grieved by the meanness and selfishness in their requests, but we would be all the more grieved if they never came to us even with their meanness and selfishness. We are simply glad that they do come-mixed motives and all.

This is precisely how it is with prayer. We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying. In fact, it is in the very act of prayer itself-the intimate, ongoing interaction with God-that these matters are cared for in due time.


JUST AS WE ARE


What I am trying to say is that God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are. In the same way that a small child cannot draw a bad picture so a child of God cannot offer a bad prayer. So we are brought to the most basic, the most primary form of prayer: Simple Prayer. Let me describe it for you. In Simple Prayer we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests. We do not try to sort things out, the good from the bad. We simply and unpretentiously share our concerns and make our petitions. We tell God, for example, how frustrated we are with the co-worker at the office or the neighbor down the street. We ask for food, favorable weather, and good health.

In a very real sense we are the focus of Simple Prayer. Our needs, our wants, our concerns dominate our prayer experience. Our prayers are shot through with plenty of pride, conceit, vanity, pretentiousness, haughtiness, and general all-around egocentricity. No doubt there are also magnanimity, generosity, unselfishness, and universal goodwill.

We make mistakes--lots of them; we sin; we fall down, often but each time we get up and begin again. We pray again. We seek to follow God again. And again our insolence and self-indulgence defeat us. Never mind. We confess and begin again . . . and again . . . and again. In fact, sometimes Simple Prayer is called the "Prayer of Beginning Again."

Prayer. Copyright © by Richard J. Foster. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Coming Home: An Invitation to Prayer 1
Pt. I Moving Inward: Seeking the Transformation We Need 5
Ch. 1 Simple Prayer 7
Ch. 2 Prayer of the Forsaken 17
Ch. 3 The Prayer of Examen 27
Ch. 4 The Prayer of Tears 37
Ch. 5 The Prayer of Relinquishment 47
Ch. 6 Formation Prayer 57
Ch. 7 Covenant Prayer 67
Pt. II Moving Upward: Seeking the Intimacy We Need 79
Ch. 8 The Prayer of Adoration 81
Ch. 9 The Prayer of Rest 93
Ch. 10 Sacramental Prayer 105
Ch. 11 Unceasing Prayer 119
Ch. 12 The Prayer of the Heart 131
Ch. 13 Meditative Prayer 143
Ch. 14 Contemplative Prayer 155
Pt. III Moving Outward: Seeking the Ministry We Need 167
Ch. 15 Praying the Ordinary 169
Ch. 16 Petitionary Prayer 179
Ch. 17 Intercessory Prayer 191
Ch. 18 Healing Prayer 203
Ch. 19 The Prayer of Suffering 217
Ch. 20 Authoritative Prayer 229
Ch. 21 Radical Prayer 243
Notes 257
Scripture Index 269
Subject Index 271
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First Chapter

Chapter One

Simple Prayer

Pray as you can, not as you can't.
  -- Dom John Chapman

We today yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are attracted to it and repelled by it. We believe prayer is something we should do, even something we want to do, but it seems like a chasm stands between us and actually praying. We experience the agony of prayerlessness.

We are not quite sure what holds us back. Of course we are busy with work and family obligations, but that is only a smoke screen. Our busyness seldom keeps us from eating or sleeping or making love. No, there is something deeper, more profound keeping us in check. In reality, there are any number of "somethings" preventing us, all of which we will explore in due time. But for now there is one "something" that needs immediate attention. It is the notion -- almost universal among us modern high achievers -- that we have to have everything "just right" in order to pray. That is, before we can really pray, our lives need some fine tuning, or we need to know more about how to pray, or we need to study the philosophical questions surrounding prayer, or we need to have a better grasp of the great traditions of prayer. And on it goes. It isn't that these are wrong concerns or that there is never a time to deal with them. But we are starting from the wrong end of things -- putting the cart before the horse. Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master the way we master algebra or auto mechanics. That puts us in the "on-top" position, where we are competent and in control. But when praying, we come "underneath," where we calmly and deliberately surrender control and becomeincompetent. "To pray," writes Emilie Griffin, "means to be willing to be naive."

I used to think that I needed to get all my motives straightened out before I could pray, really pray. I would be in some prayer group, for example, and I would examine what I had just prayed and think to myself, "How utterly foolish and self-centered; I can't pray this way!" And so I would determine never to pray again until my motives were pure. You understand, I did not want to be a hypocrite. I knew that God is holy and righteous. I knew that prayer is no magic incantation. I knew that I must not use God for my own ends. But the practical effect of all this internal soul-searching was to completely paralyze my ability to pray.

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives -- altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it.

Jesus reminds us that prayer is a little like children coming to their parents. Our children come to us with the craziest requests at times! Often we are grieved by the meanness and selfishness in their requests, but we would be all the more grieved if they never came to us even with their meanness and selfishness. We are simply glad that they do come -- mixed motives and all.

This is precisely how it is with prayer. We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying. In fact, it is in the very act of prayer itself -- the intimate, ongoing interaction with God -- that these matters are cared for in due time.

Just as We Are

What I am trying to say is that God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are. In the same way that a small child cannot draw a bad picture so a child of God cannot offer a bad prayer. So we are brought to the most basic, the most primary form of prayer: Simple Prayer. Let me describe it for you. In Simple Prayer we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests. We do not try to sort things out, the good from the bad. We simply and unpretentiously share our concerns and make our petitions. We tell God, for example, how frustrated we are with the co-worker at the office or the neighbor down the street. We ask for food, favorable weather, and good health.

In a very real sense we are the focus of Simple Prayer. Our needs, our wants, our concerns dominate our prayer experience. Our prayers are shot through with plenty of pride, conceit, vanity, pretentiousness, haughtiness, and general all-around egocentricity. No doubt there are also magnanimity, generosity, unselfishness, and universal goodwill.

We make mistakes -- lots of them; we sin; we fall down, often -- but each time we get up and begin again. We pray again. We seek to follow God again. And again our insolence and self-indulgence defeat us. Never mind. We confess and begin again ... and again ... and again. In fact, sometimes Simple Prayer is called the "Prayer of Beginning Again."

Simple Prayer is the most common form of prayer in the Bible. There is little that is lofty or magnanimous about the faith heroes who journey across the pages of Scripture. Think of Moses complaining to God about his stiff-necked and erstwhile followers ...

Prayer - 10th Anniversary Edition. Copyright © by Richard J. Foster. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    This has been a great book for me as part of my journey with God

    This has been a great book for me as part of my journey with God. As a reference book  the content
    gives a new message each time it is read. Should be in every church library.

    LoRe

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2013

    Highly recommended

    The best book on prayer I've ever seen. Liberating!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Highly recommended. You will go back to it again and again.

    Found this book just as my study group was exploring prayer through the Scriptures. Beautiful guidance on how to pray.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Worthwhile

    It's obvious that the author is very well educated and has spent a great deal of time in prayer, himself. Occasionally the writing seems a bit stiff and rather seminarian, but when I got to chapter 16 and read his thoughts on what we perceive to be unanswered prayer I felt that I'd finally seen his heart. There are many, many highlights in that chapter! It's a book that's worth your time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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