Book Review: Prayer, by Richard J. Foster

so, one of the things i decided i want to begin doing with my blog is offering a review of the books i’m reading.  i don’t know about you, but i love to share about a good book i’m reading and why i’d recommend it.  Prayer by Richard Foster is one such book.  to allow for some consistency between reviews, i’ll have a set group of questions, followed by my answers.  feel free to comment if you have any questions or thoughts!

here goes!

what initially drew you to read this book?
Foster has been a familiar name (he authored Celebration of Discipline) for a good while now, but i finally took the plunge and read one of his books, Streams of Living Water in the spring.   that was such an incredible read that it solidified him in my mind as an author to keep on the shelves.

i initially saw Prayer on my friend’s coffee table and opened to read a few pages.  what i read had me captured and i decided it was time to really embrace this one.

the irony is that i was very much in a season of non-prayer.  many weighty concerns and heartbreaking situations were on my heart and mind, so much so that i began to feel very depressed and couldn’t find the words to even utter a prayer.  this book very much “cured” me of that.

basic overview:
“basic” and “overview” are words you could hardly use in conjunction with any of Foster’s writings.  i will try, however, to give just an idea of this book.  let’s see…it’s about prayer.  in all it’s many forms.  there are so many ways to pray, so many i didn’t even really think about there being a distinction between.  “healing prayer” and “intercessory prayer” i’d heard about, but “prayer of the suffering” and “authoritative prayer” have never crossed my horizon.  Foster goes through each one, describing the circumstances in which they can be found, why they are used, etc.  he begins each chapter with a quote from the fathers and mothers of our faith, and ends with a gentle prayer.

do you recommend this read?  why/why not?
hells yes.  Foster writes about our faith with such an incredible amount of grace.  one of my favorite lines from early in the book.  he is explaining that even prayer comes with a learning curve, and it is ok to start small.  “when you have had enough, tell God simply, ‘I must have a rest; I have no strength to be with you all the time.'”  gently, and yet with great authority, Foster makes this act of our faith a manageable item, instead of some surreal, lofty goal we can never attain.  the pages are chock full of tangible ways to approach God and prayer.  in areas of my life where i have become quite captive to my thoughts/perspective (namely the issue of free will, and whether or not talking to God is actually important, and the desperate brokenness of the world), Foster breaks down the gates and opens to the door to all the possibilities a life with God can bring.  he shares story after story of God’s people, who took a risk and asked boldly for something, and how God graciously answered.

which leads me back to what i mentioned in the first answer, that i’d been in a season of non-prayer.  this book ushered me into a season of continual prayer.  it was with a great deal of tears that i worked through several of the chapters, reading about God’s intense love.  as i read, i felt the Holy Spirit lead me to pray for others and for myself.  and i saw some immediate responses.  for example, i prayed that a certain family our church is supporting would come to church with us (from what i’ve heard, they’ve been deeply hurt by “church” in the past).  they did, and just as i was speaking to the group about having grace for themselves.  without pretension, we welcomed them in.

i prayed, in the vain of what Foster would call “the prayer of suffering”, where you literally take on the suffering of another, and then give it over to God, so as to free up that person.  i found myself awake at 3 am one morning, crying and praying for a friend who has yet to know God in a real way.  i don’t remember most of the words i said, only the deep sadness i felt.  later that week, i was able to share with him that i prayed for him, and he told me he had prayed in such a deep way, a way he had not in a very long time.

now, i acknowledge that all this credit does not belong in the hands of Richard Foster, but his writings were clearly a conduit for prayer to begin flowing again.  he even addressed my weighty concerns with hope that every prayer makes its way to the heart of the father.  “so we throw caution to the wind and pray not just for individuals but also for nations, not just for the renewal of the Church but also for the transformation of the world.”  anything and everything that weighs on hearts, he explains, also weighs on the heart of the father.  and it is through prayer that we learn to release such burdens into the hands of the One who can truly transform.

additional comments:
be patient with yourself when reading this book.  it may take a week to work through a chapter, or even just to digest it.  take your time.  journal.  open yourself to the kind of prayer Foster describes.   this book, and the work that God begins in you, will be transformative.

“today the heart of God is an open wound of love. . . .He longs for our presence.  And he is inviting you–and me–to come home, to come home to where we belong, to come home to that for which we were created.  His arms are stretched out wide to receive us.  His heart is enlarged to take us in.”
-Richard J. Foster


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