Have I mentioned that this book is AWESOME!?
I just went through the chapter on prayer, an I’ve never felt something like this to be so accessible and easy. Before I continue gushing, however, a note on my prayer life.
Until recently, it’s kinda sucked. A lot of my faith can be very cerebral and intellectual. While the life of the mind is very much a part of the Christian walk, there’s many other aspects to that walk, and prayer is probably the most central of all those aspects. Very recently, I’ve dedicated myself to daily prayer and bible reading, and I didn’t realize how starved I was, because I’ve been devouring it every single day. I look forward to it a little more each day, and I wish I could devote more time to what I learn from reading the Bible and praying, but God requires my participation in things outside the four walls of my apartment.
What strikes me the most about Foster is his absolute faith in prayer to change the world and everyone in it. Without getting into the free open universe/closed universe debate, Foster argues that the very command to pray indicates our ability to petition God to have our needs met (in accordance with his will). He notes that not once in all the times we see Jesus pray in the Gospels did he conclude with “if it be thy will.” Though we must ask God’s will in an effort to align ourselves with it, nowhere must we passively ask for things and only hope that something happens. On the contrary, a faithful prayer asks boldly for its needs to be met, for the sick to be healed, for the dead to be raised! I can’t count the number of times I’ve passively asked fo things, but I hope to now eradicate the practice from my daily prayers.
Another crazy part of this chapter was Foster’s use of imagination in prayer (it plays a significant part in the meditation chapter too). He talks about a time where he was called upon as a pastor to pray for a very sick child. He enlisted the help of the child’s four-year-old brother, and instructed him to picture Jesus sitting across from them, waiting for them to bring their attention to him and to his love. When they placed their hands on the child, they pictured Jesus putting his hands on theirs, and his love flowing down onto the sick child and healing her. Though he confesses he doesn’t know how it happened, the child was perfectly well the next day.
I’ve never thought to imagine anything when I prayed. It always seemed childish, maybe silly, but remembering God’s omnipresence perhaps invokes the need to do so. He quotes St. Teresa of Avila, who used to imagine Jesus within her as she prayed. This practice, she says, “helped her learn to pray when she never knew how.” I’d say it’s worth a try.
Anyway, this book continues to be awesome.