I grew up listening to my dad play the guitar. He was an amateur with the instrument, but what he lacked in training he made up for with his pristine voice, which would soar through the rooms and wash over you like warm water. He made up a lot of his own songs; some were forgettable, but there was one I have never forgotten. The chorus, which was really slow and always hit the top of his register, went like this:
I don’t know how to pray / Don’t know what to say
/ I think I’ve lost my way.
Years later, I still shudder at the raw beauty of his sonorous confession. It was a troubling statement from a man I admired. But the idea that longing to pray is something worth singing about moved me. It still does.
At times I imagine this song being sung as a confession over the modern American church. I don’t think we know how to pray. Which makes the new book from New York City pastor John Starke, The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World, all the more urgent. The title alone stokes the heart the same way my father’s song did. I wanted to read it before I could even open it, and it did not disappoint.
Neatly divided and very readable (I finished it, without rushing, in one sitting on a plane), the book is broken into two sections: “The Possibility of Prayer” and “The Practice of Prayer.” Broadly speaking, the first half describes what we should think about prayer, and the second half focuses on what we should do about it.
The Greatest Insanity
Most believers, like me, live with the vague assumption that prayer is a good thing, and attendant with that is the nagging suspicion that we should probably be praying more. So I appreciate how Starke begins with ...1
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