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 January 3, 2020

For all the celebration and time off we have arrived here. 2020. Of the opportunities. Of the anxiety of it all! Whatever comes, let’s determine to run to Jesus and trust in him.

To kick off the year four bits worth reading as we shape what we will look like as the calendar unfolds.


First up, prayer. John Starke, a pastor in NYC, wrote a piece for The Washington Post on adding the daily routine of prayer for all of us looking for self-worth and satisfaction. His words are a good invitation to what we should take up.

Here is his conclusion: “There is much to learn about prayer, but it’s easy to get started. Begin by reading Psalms in the Bible and see how believers have prayed and what they’ve prayed for. Read a book on prayer. Find a community of faith and see how they pray and what they seek.”

“Christians often come to prayer not knowing what to say, whether because of suffering, weariness or feeling distant from God. That’s okay. God, who is our help, invites us just to be present. He tells us not to expect to be received for our many words but because we are loved.”

Read the whole thing here.


Following that, there is an older piece from Mike Brooks on For The Church on “A Revolutionary Prayer Life.” It is actually more simple than we think.

A problem many of us face in the moment we’re praying is that, if we were to pay close attention, we’d likely catch ourselves mentally processing our joys and frustrations, rather than remaining present in prayer and sharing these things with God, praising him for his faithfulness and asking him to reveal the ways in which we aren’t trusting him as we ought.

Give it a read here and let’s start using the “Dear God” more often!


Now we move into how we can work differently. Oriented toward redemptive things versus the normative increase of money or accolades.

Molly Worthen penned an essay in The New York Times early in December to process thoughts on justice and inequality finding fruitfulness in the faith and work movement afoot. It is worth looking in on and pondering how we live and work.

“Today, a different cast of evangelicals — who are more likely to be pastors, academics and small-scale entrepreneurs than titans of the business establishment — are leading the faith and work movement in new directions, because they take more seriously all the ways the Bible challenges the exploitations of our new Gilded Age. They have built a network of businesses, ministries, media organizations, conference programs, websites and more than a dozen research centers in every region of the country that focus on how Christians can turn the workplace into “a sign and foretaste of God’s coming kingdom…”

Check out Worthen’s thorough look at the faith and work movement here.


To close out the week then is a great example of this type of work. 1951 Coffee is a roaster and coffeehouse that employs refugees giving them work experience and skills as they learn life in the U.S..

“1951 Coffee Company, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues.”

It seems to be a great model and rumor has it we will soon see one in San Diego. Check them out online.


Whether you are still struggling with resolutions or just living free, may 2020 be a grand experience of the grace of Christ. Onward!

Worthwhile

Worthwhile: June 7, 2019

Did you know that today is national donut day? Go get one!

Travel last week and summer in swing this week. There are still a few worthwhile bits of the internet for you to check out.

Post-Christian cities, praying for your food and graduating with gratitude.


Barna has released its look at the most “post-Christian” cities in the U.S. As Barna says:

To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week. 

What is surprising is not that there are post-Christian cities ranking with 45% or higher, but where they are. San Diego is ranked 38th most post-Christian but my hometown of Omaha jumps off the list at 34. The town I did grad school, Toledo, OH is 35…

Check the list and see where your city ranks. Then get to work and tell someone about Jesus!


Also funny to me last week the remark from someone that because a comedian told them they didn’t need to say grace before a meal, they discontinued the practice. Ha.

First, if a comedian is your life coach or source of Christian teaching, go to church (and I realize most pastors try to be comedians). Next, praying before meals, or other adventures for that matter, are about expressing gratitude to God for his gifts, his provision in our lives. If anything we should be praying more, not less.

Jeremy Writebol gives us a good model, “Prayer at the regular intervals of normal, ordinary life fuel our dependence on God.”

“Praying at a meal is a part of pursuing Jesus in all of life. When eating a meal, give thanks for it. The pattern to implement is this: First, pause before the meal. Second, pray aloud, expressing gratitude for God’s provision of the food. Third, if so desired or needed at the moment, express others’ petitions. Then, eat.”

Read the rest here and get to praying… and eating.


And finally, it is graduation season. Don’t let it get you down. While seasons of transition can at times leave us grieving we can look forward with hope and thankfulness. In fact it is good to grieve, the right way.

Melissa Kruger shares more and it might just be what you need to get through the graduations! Read it, live it.


That’s it faithful friends. Have a great weekend. I will be preaching a wedding and partying with the best of them. Onward with grace and peace.