This morning I revisited C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on Mark 11:24 in Letters to Malcolm. I like his take, and I’m going to quote him at length from his 11th chapter. He concludes by asking for his correspondent’s thoughts on the subject, and I oblige by giving some of mine below. Here is Lewis: The New Testament contains embarrassing promises that what we pray for with faith we shall receive. Mark XI:24 is the most staggering. Whatever we ask for, believing that we’ll get it, we’ll…Continue Reading “Mark 11 and C.S. Lewis”

I’ve been rereading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. I’m bearing down on the end, but I wanted to quote this passage here (though it’s long) because it seems important and is indisputably beautiful. It concerns prayer, and Jayber’s ongoing effort to understand what happens in prayer. It expresses some questions and feelings that probably all of us who pray have felt at one time or another. What answer can human intelligence make to God’s love for the world? What answer, for that matter, can it make…Continue Reading “Praying with Jayber”

5 By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; 6 Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; 7 You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. 8 They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning…Continue Reading “Thanksgiving”

If someone had mentioned “sacred reading” to me before this week, I would have assumed they meant a literary genre — a category of books focused on sacred topics. But since delving into Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours, I’ve come to a different understanding. Or maybe it’s that Kathleen Deignan’s use of the term in her introduction to Thomas Merton’s thought supplies the label for something I’ve known in a groping, incompletely conceived way — something both my “25 Reasons to Read” page and my…Continue Reading “Sacred Reading”

There are so many ways a book like this could go wrong. It could be super-saccharine. It could be self-righteous, or narcissistic, or overly introspective. It could be pushy. But in telling the story of a year in her life — the year her two sons were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and she made a New Year’s resolution to pray for a stranger every day — author River Jordan walks the path of authenticity, earns my liking and my trust, and inspires me. Praying…Continue Reading “Praying for Strangers”

There’s more to prayer than petition. Most of us know this. But how good are we at cultivating the other elements of prayer? How persistent? How comfortable? Twice lately, I’ve read of the importance of adoration in a daily time with God. The first source is Andrew Murray’s Deeper Christian Life. The second is Margaret Therkelsen’s Love Exchange: An Adventure in Prayer. It was published in 1990, and I read it back then; in recent weeks I’ve read it again. It’s not a scholarly book,…Continue Reading “The Love Exchange”

What does it mean to pray without ceasing? No, really. Specifically. In practice. How do you pray without ceasing? Do you discuss every little decision you face during the day? Do you give God status updates every minute? Do you shut yourself away from human society altogether, and interact only with God? This Orthodox classic puts forth a different way, one that rang strangely in my evangelical ears, but which inspires a whole new conception of what continuous prayer means. The Way of a Pilgrim…Continue Reading “The Way of a Pilgrim”

There seems to be a fresh spirit blowing through our church. People speak of a discontent with the status quo, and a desire for a fresh infilling of God’s spirit. Every Sunday at the conclusion of the service we are given the opportunity to pray at the altar, and it’s not the slightest bit contrived or high-pressure — just an invitation to pray, for the church and for an increased openness to God. Talking with a friend from out of state the other day, we…Continue Reading “Intercession”

Dallas Willard’s Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God is less a how-to book than a renovation of our commonly accepted ideas about prayer. Quietly but assuredly, it confronts the skepticism that God would speak regularly and understandably to his children. It meditates on the qualities of God’s voice and emphasizes the disciplines that give us (as Jesus called it) “ears to hear.” Above all it places prayer in the context of a life totally committed to walking with God, and growing in friendship…Continue Reading “Hearing God”

Recently, a few friends and I realized that though we all possessed this book, none of us had read it. We’d felt that we should read it, and perhaps had tried, but none of us had succeeded. Then both Dallas Willard and A.W. Tozer made passing references to it. I decided my time had come. Regarded as a devotional classic, Brother Lawrence’s reflections on learning to pray without ceasing contain their share of wisdom and exhortation. What he describes — the art of doing all…Continue Reading “The Practice of the Presence of God”