Book Review

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.

Worthwhile

Worthwhile August 9, 2019

What’s up?! It’s Friday and for some of us the last weekend before the new school year starts. Which means an end to the adventures of summer and the return to routine, kids at school and plenty of things to pull at our attention spans. I like routine, so the new schedule and three kids at school at the same time each day is enticing.

So what should you consume on this potentially last weekend of the summer? Here are a few options. Tailored to my preferences of course.


Killing your silly dreams.

I came of ministry age in an environment of visioneering. “God-sized” dreams that outpaced everything that has come before. Innovation for its own sake… so imagine my dismay when I read the requirements for elders in 1 Peter calling us to “shepherd the flock that is among you.” Wait, I want to shepherd the flock I design, I dream about.

Detrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together challenges us to kill our “wish dream,” and instead find gratitude for what God has given you in the midst of where you are. So kids, kill those dreams.

Chase Replogle shares his story and how Bonhoeffer wrecked him. Check it out on Christianity Today.


Sam Storms has a new book about speaking in tongues and while this can be a controversial topic, at least one that makes many people uncomfortable, there is much to learn from this scholar/pastor.

He was recently interviewed by Pneuma Today and shared that piece on his blog.

While you may not be convinced by one interview you will certainly be enlightened.

Praying in tongues enables us to bring our requests to God when we’ve run out of things to say. We are finite. Our minds eventually go dry and empty. But praying in tongues is the way in which the Spirit can articulate our prayers to the Father when we feel inadequate to do so. Also, tongues is a way in which we can sing our praises to God (1 Cor. 14:15) as well as give thanks to him (1 Cor. 14:16). 

Read the whole interview here.


Finally, I have long been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and his inquisitive thinking. I tend to learn a lot from him in just asking the right questions of things. His podcast, Revisionist History is no exception.

Last week’s episode not only educated me on a couple of police-involved shootings, but also stirred some thinking about “disordered attachments.” Important stuff for us to think through, especially given our current political climate.

Listen to the episode here and think about subscribing. Warning: the topic is shootings so there are some hard moments of the story of one man being gunned down and why he was.


That’s it for this week. Live long and prosper, or at least take a nap. See you on the other side.

Discipleship

Shalom

Christmas infiltrates the mess of human brokenness and hurt in order to unravel it, to bring healing and wholeness. This is the peace Christ brings, this is the peace Christ is.

As those that believe in Jesus, this is what we give our lives to, bringing the peace of Christ to every broken place. To every hurt. That there would be healing and wholeness.

How will you bring Shalom?

Another great “peace” of creative work from the Bible Project.