If I had to count, I’d say I’d read more than a hundred books on prayer, in it’s different guises and from different perspectives. The book I’m reviewing today, John Starke’s The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World is probably the best I’ll read this year.
The Possibility of Prayer is a beautifully written and beautifully produced little book on prayer that is perfect for those of us who have been following Jesus for a while, but perhaps don’t feel we’ve ‘cracked’ prayer. After reading this book, you won’t crack it either, but you will agree with Starke that “formation in prayer is slow work… Prayer is like a muscle. People who have learned to pray and have had a simple, daily but faithful prayer life, whether for ten years or for fifty, will tell you it’s like marathon running. You run with growing freedom and joy the more you do it“. I think that is good, and beautiful, and true.
The Possibility of Prayer is a book that takes seriously the challenge of prayer in the culture we find ourselves in. There is a stunning section on the embodied nature of prayer, which flows into an observation that I found personally deeply challenging: “Our phones sync us to a rhythm by which we’re mastered by something less than meaningful. They trick us into thinking we’re living moments of more, but really we are living lives of less“. Amen. For ‘phones’ I think we can substitute digital screen technology generally, but the point about phones is likely convicting to you as it is to me. Starke goes on, “Heavy social media use makes solitude with God scattered and frustrating. But healthy rhythms of solitude and even boredom, supported by resistance to technology (maybe through intentional times of disconnecting from social media), can bring surprising richness and refreshment to our lives“. Amen! Starke invites the disciple of Jesus to be deliberate in pursuing the quiet place of prayer, communion with God.
The Possibility of Prayer is an honest book, not written by some guru with all the answers, but rather by a fellow traveller along The Way. Starke’s almost closing words sum this up beautifully: “It’s no overstatement to say that the most transformative thing you can do is begin to spend unhurried time with God on a regular basis for the rest of your life… What I’ve been trying to show in this book is that consistent prayer is possible. My hope is that these reflections have stirred not only a desire to continue in prayer but shared wisdom for the path ahead and strategies for perseverance“. Certainly, this little book provideda welcome tonic of re-invigoration when I read it – and I think it could do the same for you too.
While I’d really recommend you read Starke’s book, here are a few other suggestions if you want to read around prayer:
- Ashley Cocksworth’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed is a good primer on theology and prayer.
- Julian Hardyman’s Fresh Pathways in Prayer is a great basic introduction to praying in different ways.
- Jill Weber’s chapter in Healthy Faith and the Coronavirus Crisis is a nice little collection of practical ideas from someone who wholeheartedly pursues prayer.