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Number of Pages: 144
Publication Date: 2011
|Dimensions: 7.00 X 5.00 (inches)|
"Full of depth and substance, Foster's writing on meditative prayer is a winsome invitation to intimacy with God that engages us at every level of our being." -Ruth Haley Barton, founder, Transforming Center, and author of Sacred Rhythms
"Richard Foster diagnoses this generation's major threat to the mature life in Christ as distraction. In response he does again what he does so well: tunnels to the roots of our deep-rooted ancestors and makes us firsthand participants in the church's practice of a life of meditative prayer." -Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message
It is from these "masters of the spiritual life" (p. 36) that Foster draws the spiritual disciplines that he promotes including: visualization (p. 36), icons (pp. 40-42), lectio divina (pp. 46-47), centering down (p. 54), and reciting of the Jesus Prayer (p. 132). Additionally, concerning spiritual warfare, Foster recommends the writing of Agnes Sanford and John Wimber. Foster concludes Sanctuary of the Soul by recommending twelve books to aid in our spiritual journey. Of those twelve, ten are from confirmed mystics and the other two draw partially from the mystics. It is no secret where Foster wants to take his readers.
But it is the discipline of meditation, better known as contemplative prayer, that is the heart of this volume. "It is meditative prayer that ushers us into divine-human fellowship," Foster believes (p. 17, see also pp. 27-28). Meditative prayer, however, is not prayer as defined and demonstrated in Scripture in which the believer communicates with God, "It is the listening side" (p. 125). Contemplative is not cognitive, rational prayer. Rather it supersedes the senses; it is wholly mystical (p. 38). Lectio divina, or sacred reading of Scripture, applies the same approach to the Bible. Quoting Madame Guyon, "We are not reading the Scripture to gain some understanding but to 'turn your mind from outward things to the deep parts of your being. You are not there to learn or to read, but...to experience the presence of your Lord'" (pp. 73-74).
This goal of meditative prayer is to hear the voice of Jesus not audibly (at least not as a norm), but "an inward whisper, a deep speaking into the heart, an interior knowing" (p. 13). Foster assures us that many characters in the Bible had this experience including Moses and Elijah (p. 18). What Foster and all promoters of mysticism fail to notice is that when biblical characters heard from God or angels they heard an audible voice, not an "inward whisper." For that reason rarely does anyone in the biblical accounts ever question that he was hearing from God. Not so the mystic who must "learn to hear the voice of God" (p. 18). Foster assures us that in time we will be able to distinguish the voice of God from all others, including Satan's and our own. One way to determine this is to remember, "Satan pushes and condemns, God draws and encourages. You can tell the difference" (p. 130). Of course this is a gross over-generalization for we know that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and judgment (John 16:8).
The basic steps of meditative prayer are recollection, beholding, and listening (pp. 62-88). Here Foster is following the three-fold road of mysticism, normally termed "purgation, illumination, and union." Foster defines these as follows:
- Recollection - letting go of all competing distractions, even good ones, until we have become truly present where we are. This can be done by focusing on a name, word, or phrase (pp. 62-70).
- Beholding the Lord - "An inward steady gaze of the heart upon God, the divine Center - The soul, ushered into the Holy Place, is transfixed by what she sees" (p. 71). During this phase some have experienced intense heat around their hearts (pp. 71-73), others speak in tongues (p. 78).
- The prayer of listening - it is at this step that God speaks to us and we enjoy His full presence (pp. 80-88). We can learn to discern God's voice by experience (pp. 82-83), but Foster cautions that we can be mistaken about what we hear (p. 84).
Again it is vital to note that Foster is not developing his theology of prayer from scriptural texts but from his own personal experiences and from those he admires. This is highly dangerous and subjective ground and is a far cry from the sure and certain Word of God. - Gary Gilley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
"This is Richard Foster at his best--describing the inner life with clarity and wisdom gained from his own experience. The content of this book, as experienced through his teaching, changed my life thirty years ago, opening me to a real, vibrant relationship with God through silence and listening. Over time this teaching has matured, and is destined to become a classic. If you want to experience an intimate relationship with God, simply read this book and put it into practice. Heaven awaits!"
"One can pick up books on prayer at the local supermarket that promise a richer, deeper and more spiritual life - all in 29 days! They are all bogus, along with many other popular books on prayer. Leave them on the shelves and read this one."
"You can only read so much elegant prose inviting you to pray before you feel guilty for not actually praying. Richard Foster notes this difficulty, quoting Thomas Merton: 'You cannot learn meditation from a book. You just have to meditate.' True enough, but good books help, and Sanctuary of the Soul is a good one."
"This book demonstrates why meditative prayer is one of the church's most precious assets in this moment of widespread distraction."
"[Foster's] quiet writing style models the listening stillness he wishes to impart. Amid many books on meditative prayer, Foster's stands out for its clarity, simplicity, and focus."
"Foster's writing is lyrical, his advice sensible, his encouragement profound as he urges Christians to tap into the 'listening side' of the 'interactive communication that transpires between God and ourselves.' Those who follow Jesus can only benefit from Foster's newest book."
"Full of depth and substance, Foster's writing on meditative prayer is a winsome invitation to intimacy with God that engages us at every level of our being."
"Richard Foster diagnoses this generation's major threat to the mature life in Christ as distraction. In response he does again what he does so well: tunnels to the roots of our deep-rooted ancestors and makes us firsthand participants in the church's practice of a life of meditative prayer."
Amy VG3 Stars Out Of 5brief overviewJanuary 14, 2016Amy VGQuality: 0Value: 0Meets Expectations: 0I don't know, I see all these five-star reviews and I really wanted to love this book...but I didn't find this little book that practicable. I enjoyed Richard Foster's gentle writing style, his numerous quotes from saints - known and not-so-known - and his hidden gems of wisdom. However, after reading this book, I don't think I came away learning anything new. Perhaps, the point of this book was more of a general overview and with all the quotes, the reader can then go look up some of the heavier, meatier books that they seem guided to read?
Sheri CookChicagolandAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5A must readApril 5, 2012Sheri CookChicagolandAge: 45-54Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Not only have I already given copies to friends, I have recommended it as a "staff pick" for our church's book sale.
bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: 55-65Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5very good primer on meditationNovember 4, 2011bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Foster heard Jesus speak to him, in his inner being, when he was in college. Part of the message was, "With me is ultimate and complete satisfaction." (12) In this book he explores what it means to hear the divine whisper, what we should expect, what should be the conditions of our heart and mind, and how we can develop an inward, prayer-filled listening.
"Oh, let me tell you how much God desires our presence. How much God longs to hear from us. How much God yearns to communicate with us." (15) Foster reviews the importance of meditation. Unlike other religions, Christian meditation involves hearing and obeying.
"In meditative prayer we are creating the emotional and spiritual space that allows God to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart." (26) That requires transformation of the human heart - by God.
At first our prayers will be halting and uneasy. Foster suggests we are always asking (to be changed), always listening (for the still, small Voice), always obeying (the Spirit and Scripture). We will be drawn into a "habitual orientation of our heart toward God." (32) "This is the formation of the heart before God." (32)
Meditative prayer involves both the mind and the heart. He writes about the role of lectio divina and experiencing worship in community. He shares his own experience of Quaker worship.
After laying the foundation, Foster gives insight into the steps of meditation. There is the process of recollection (becoming more fully present, surrendering), beholding the Lord (the inward steady gaze of the heart upon God), and the prayer of listening (spirit alert, discerning the voice of God - quality, spirit, content).
"Distraction is the primary spiritual problem in our day." (102) Learning single-hearted concentration takes time. Keeping a "to-do" pad handy may help curb thoughts vying for attention. You might want to practice a Sabbath time free from electronic media. Foster suggests the reading of selective poetry to help focus the wandering mind (he explains why).
Foster addresses demonic forces and the life of prayer. He answers frequently asked questions with practical answers.
Has Foster achieved all he writes about? No. He admits at one point, "I don't know about you, but all this lofty talk leaves me a little breathless. And overwhelmed. I'm just hoping to make it through the week. Perhaps you feel the same." (73) But he encourages us not to despair or give up. He quotes Merton: "You cannot learn meditation from a book. You just have to meditate." (133)
elrod5 Stars Out Of 5September 19, 2011elrodQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Fantastic book. One I have a hard time putting down.