Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home By Richard Foster
About the Author
Richard J. Foster is the author of many best selling books, which includes the most famous "Celebration of Discipline and Streams of Living of Water." He is also the founder of Renovare an infrachurch movement that is dedicated to the restoration of the Church in all her comprehensive expressions. In addition, his is a general editor of the forthcoming Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible (1).
Foster is undoubtedly one of the foremost modern writers and speakers on Christian spirituality. His childhood was among Evangelical Friends. While, he spent his adult life among friends pastor and a professor of theology at Friends University, among the many positions he has held. Foster frequently made reference to Quaker historical figures and his own Quakerism both in his books and speaking (1).
Richard J. Foster, the best-selling author has offered this time to his readers an ardent, persuasive, and perceptive introduction on prayer to comprehend, understand, and practice it in its many ways, from the simple prayer of starting again to continuous prayer. One of the focus points of the book is the clarification on the process of prayer, answers to general misconceptions, and explained the way into prayers of meditation, relaxation, sanctify, mercy, and healing (2).
Another important point in the book is that Foster has revealed the means for others to have the experience of prayer at a thoughtful heart-level, which according to him is not merely a place of sentiment and feelings, but it contains a focal point where the human soul is changed and enjoys a new oneness with God. As Foster said:
Nothing feels more right, more like what we are created to be and to do. Yet at the same time we are confronted with great mysteries. Who hasn't struggled with the puzzle of unanswered prayer? Who hasn't wondered how a finite person can commune with the infinite Creator of the universe? Who hasn't questioned whether prayer isn't merely psychological manipulation after all? We do our best, of course, to answer these knotty questions but when all is said and done, there is a sense in which these mysteries remain unanswered and unanswerable... At such times we must learn to become comfortable with the mystery (2)."
Analysis of the book (Strengths & Weakness)
The main strength of the book is that this logically written book revealed what prayer is all about, and the writer is someone who has himself practiced prayer, loved praying and carefully and completely understood its meaning and importance (2,3).
One can hardly points out the weaknesses of the book as the author has made in-depth and through research and discovered the various aspects of prayer, whether it is an ordinary prayer or extraordinary. He believes that the root is a relationship, which is encouraged by God and which can be developed by all, no matter what experience they have (2).
Another plus point in the book is his concise description of prayer as a journey inward, upward and outward (transformation, intimacy, and ministry) and illustrated with examples of the classics of prayer and the mystics of history, relating prayer to the everyday.
Although hundreds of books on prayer have been written, and much of the suggestions and information they have is likely to be the same. But the key to this book for being distinguished from the rest is that the author knows something of God's heart. He has genuinely explored the different aspects of prayer, defined as (2): "The human response to the perpetual outpouring of love by which God lays siege to every soul." And "ordinary people bringing... ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father."
Unlike other authors, he has explored the hidden places where prayer becomes not just appeal or request but a way of life. He has very thoughtfully explained prayer of admiration and relaxation, thoughtfulness, contemplation and sacramental prayer. While in the last section of the book he explained the outward prayer, where prayer meets the requirements of the world. In every chapter Foster has described, illustrated, and gave supportive examples and primarily he has written the book with artistic and spiritual mind (2,3).
Richard Foster does not tell us how to acquire things through prayer: he tells us how God will help us discover him through prayer. He leads us beyond questions to a deeper understanding and practice of prayer, bringing us closer to God, to ourselves, and to our community (2). Thus, this book is one of the most comprehensive, yet comprehensible introductions to prayer that Foster has gifted to his readers.
In addition to many plus points and strengths, the book is a volume that merges knowledge of church history's classic devotion along with a novelty appeal to the 21st century (3). This book is not just another book written on what few people may call "prayer lite." But rather the author of this book has presented solid work that has its ground in the theology with the history of the Church.
The book is a comprehensive overview of prayer where throughout exploring many various forms of prayer, the reader is assisted by clear understanding of the meaning and gist of the book.
Finally, the greatest thing about this book is Foster's many personal stories that put flesh and blood on the subject matter along with his practical approach and still being semi-intellectual in his approach. This book is definitely helpful and positive for young and old Christians that can change the heart (3).
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God by Dallas Willard
About the Author
The author Dallas Willard is AB.A. In psychology from Tennessee Temple College and a B.A. In philosophy and religion from Baylor University. He has done his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin. His major was philosophy, and minor history of science (4).
His significant works includes; The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives and The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (4). The former, acclaimed, as "the book of the decade" by author and professor Richard Foster, is a call to live the style of life Jesus himself lived, thus continued steady interaction with his kingdom (4).
Dallas Willard in his book "Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God" has presented rich mystical insight into how one can evidently hear God's voice and expand a close association with him in the work of his empire (4).
According to Dallas, being close to God means corresponding with him and communicating to him in prayer as to what is on ones' hearts and also listening and understanding to what he is saying. This is term as second half of a person's conversation with God, which at the same time is very important and difficult in the sense as how do we hear God's voice? What role does the Bible play? OR what if what God says to us is not clear (4)?
Here the author very clearly has explained that the key to communicate successfully to God is by focusing not much on ones' actions and decisions but by building personal relationship with the Creator (4).
Analysis of the Book (Strengths and Weakness)
The book contains information with rich devout insight as to how one can approach God and develop a close relationship with him. This approach is quite successful since According to Willard, there aren't any formulas to reach God except the way to find God's will is to look for God and learn how to communicate with him (5).
One of the strengths of the book is the argument given by Willard that in quest of God's will, one usually ask wrong questions, for instance; "What job should I take?" "Whom should I marry?" Although he agreed that these questions are genuine and justifiable but at the same time they should be secondary to needs to have a profound relationship with God. Thus, it is in that bond with God that the questions of lives get answered. He has also explored the teachings of the Bible in terms of God communication with his mankind (4, 5).
The only criticism of this book is that the author used too much time examining the theories while did not give ample time in exploring the practicality of the same. Actually, Dallas Willard ran through the prison stuffing keys in every cell doors, calling all to turn the key and be set free from rigid thinking of when and how God speaks to his mankind. This book is not just any summer reading, but it requires a lot of time to absorb everything the author has written, which is again a set back about this book (5).
In the book the author has pointed out what life could be like if one would just have the belief in the fact that God wants to speak to you, and that is only possible if you would know what frequency to tune…