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Becoming The Answer To Our Prayers Paperback – Oct 1 2008
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"Not everyone will agree with every particular detail of biblical interpretation in this book by Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove, but no one can deny the truth of their main argument: God is calling each and all of us to be eager agents fulfilling His purposes in the world! This book compels us passionately to ask, in the power of the Holy Spirit, 'How am I "putting legs on my prayers"?' This is a tested book and a necessary one!"--Marva J. Dawn, teaching fellow in Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, and author of Unfettered Hope, Joy in Divine Wisdom and My Soul Waits
"God always raises up new and courageous voices when the church is tempted to forget its own gospel. Here are two of those voices--and two who have been made into the answer to our own fervent prayers."--Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico
"Jonathan and Shane--along with the many friends they quote and tell stories about in these pages--are on a journey together toward a bold and beautiful way of living that makes people more truly alive. As one trying hard to stay that same course, I am more than grateful to them for sharing in such clear and practical language what they have been learning along the way about prayer, about community, and about keeping faith with God and our brothers and sisters with their backs against the wall."--Bart Campolo, writer, speaker and neighborhood minister
"Jonathan and Shane, contemplative activists, humble prophets, and sincere lovers of humanity and God, provoke a new way of understanding prayer. Avoiding the tendency to reduce prayer to 'three easy steps' or trite formulas, Jonathan and Shane press the integrity of our prayer lives by challenging us to live into our prayerfulness. Rather than suggesting prayer as wishful thinking or hopefulness wrapped around memorized bedtime recitations, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers recovers the essence of truly prayerful life--it's the recovery of a sacrificial embodiment of our prayers. God's answer to our prayers might be as close, or as far away, as our willingness to be available as part of the solution. Jonathan and Shane make this simple truth accessible and available, inspiring us to an authentic prayer life--a life lived to answer prayers."--Christopher L. Heuertz, international director, Word Made Flesh, and author of Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World
"Who learns more fully about the importance of prayer than folks living in Christian community and engaged in social activism? The authors of this wonderful little book share graciously and truthfully from the spiritual wisdom they have gathered."--Christine D. Pohl, professor of social ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary, author of Making Room
"Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove have slipped the bonds of the ordinary and leapt the chasm of the customary. They have stood at brightly burning bushes that for most of us just won't catch fire. This book is a small invocation which, once prayed, calls for those who thought they knew the far country to see it for the first time. The far country is not so far as we supposed: it lies vivid and visible betwen our 'our Fathers' and our 'thy will be dones.'"--Calvin Miller, Beeson Divinity School, author of The Singer and The Path of Celtic Prayer
"This thoughtful treatise offers a concise taste of Bible study, prayer, and myriad church teachers."--Angelina Conti, Friends Journal, January 2010
"We in the church are blessed by the imaginations of Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and their communities."--Gavin Dluehosh, The Covenant Companion, February 2010
Claiborne enlists help from his long-time friend Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove to address how prayer and activism are related. Take a small group through this book as you prepare for a summer mission opportunity.--Paul Berry, YouthWorker Journal, May/June 2009
Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove, "radical" Christians who see the danger of burnout and spiritual erosion when those who tend to the marginalized fail to pursue the divine romance that is prayer. The authors use three NT prayers to move the reader outside ordinary assumptions about prayer and challenge us to a deeper relationship with Christ.--Steven Todd, YouthWorker Journal, March/April 2009
It's both rare and refreshing to discover a new perspective on prayer. But if anyone can provide that perspective, it's Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Recommended for anyone interested in social justice, intentional communitites and the new monastics, as well as Christians who have grown beyond books on how to pray and want to learn instead how to live out the prayers they're already praying.--Marcia Ford, Faithful Reader (faithfulreader.com), March 2009
Like these men's other books, it is another awakening (and sometimes embarrassing) reminder that the contemporary American church is not the radical social force it was called to be.--Rachel Pater, Sarcastic Lutheran (sarcasticluteran.typepad.com), March 23, 2009
Prayer is always a difficult topic for Christians to wrap their heads around. I'd recommend the book if you like Shane or Jonathan, or more generally if you are passionate in areas of social justice and struggle to connect that with your prayer life.--Eric, Between the Trees, (wordsfromtheway.com/between-the-trees/), October 22, 2008
Readers will never see prayer or community in quite the same way again.--Publisher's Weekly, September 15, 2008
About the Author
Shane Claiborne is an activist, author of Jesus for President, coauthor of Common Prayer, and is a founder of The Simple Way, a community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is an associate minister at St. Johns Baptist Church. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Jonathan is engaged in reconciliation efforts in Durham, North Carolina, directs the School for Conversion (newmonasticism.org), and is a sought-after speaker and author of several books. The Rutba House, where Jonathan lives with his wife, Leah, their son, JaiMichael, daughter, Nora Ann, and other friends, is a new monastic community that prays, eats, and lives together, welcoming neighbors and homeless. Find out more at jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com.
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The book explores in depth three major prayers found within the new testament. They focus on the Lord's Prayer, Jesus' prayer for his disciples in John 17, and Pauls prayer to the church in Ephesians(1:15-23). The over running theme, as they look at these three examples of prayer, is that prayer necessitates action.
The book is extremely well written. The two voices of the authors intermingle so well that, without the help of parenthetical notings, one would assume that there is but one voice coming from the pages. Whether this is intentional or not, I can't say. But it does further drive home another major point, that we are to be one in spirit.
The book hits on issues of politics, economics, community, justice, the Holy Spirit, and the intricacies of prayer found within all of these. Anybody who is looking for a book with some girth to it concerning prayer this book would be a beneficial read. It takes no attention away from the art of praying or the church, but pushes for reflection on the prayers of the saints and early christians so that we may see that prayer becomes mere murmering to God when we fail to follow up with appropriate actions. Instead of praying for people's burdens, this book will push you to make others burdens your own, as we are called.
Those of you who have read Shane before will see many of the same themes here: social justice, community, love for the least of these. He and Jonathan do a pretty good job of linking them to the texts themselves. At the same time, I felt like this book was a clear demonstration of the fact that, despite accusations to the contrary, they're thoroughly evangelical.
Two things stood out to me about this book. One was the way the authors managed to pull off an admirable co-writing project. Rather than simply writing different parts of the book as individuals, the two consistently use the plural when talking about themselves, slipping into singular only to tell personal stories (of which there are a number; both these young men have certainly lived eventful lives). I was impressed by how well they worked as a team.
The other thing I liked were the prayers interspersed through the book. Interspersed with the text are little boxes with different prayers from saints and liturgies. Many of these were fantastic, and I especially appreciated how historically-rooted and catholic the selection was. Too many young evangelicals have never been exposed to the rich tradition we have from the early and medieval church, and this is a good place to start.
My biggest complaint about this book is that the actual exegesis of Scripture is a mixed bag. Shane and Jonathan clearly have an agenda coming to the texts, and I think there are times that this shows in their readings of the different prayers. They have a tendency to read a text and then take one application and say "Here! This is what it means!" This is fine as long as it's recognized that it's one of many things you could do with the text, but at times I get the feeling the authors would feel like their emphasis is the only one the prayers could give you, and I'm not so sure. That said, I don't want to be too harsh on them; every time you use a text to make a point you necessarily do this, and I'm not unhappy with the points they're making.
I enjoyed this book. It came at a time when my life has been busy, so I feel like I wasn't able to soak in it as much as I would have liked. However, I think some of the prayers littered throughout it will pay rich dividends down the road, so I'm sure I'll be picking it up again.
I'd recommend the book if you like Shane or Jonathan, or more general if you are active in areas of social justice and struggle to connect that with your prayer life. I should note that this is not a manual on how to pray. If you're a new believer or someone seeking advice in this area, I'd recommend Thomas Watson's The Lord's Prayer and Andrew Murray's With Christ in the School of Prayer.
That being said, these men deserve a voice. They are doing amazing things with their lives and they have something to share. And there are definitely glimpses of that in this book, I just think it could have been better.
Not surprisingly, BECOMING THE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS also places an emphasis on prayer coupled with action. "Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do," the authors write in the introduction. That may mean not just praying that a homeless family finds shelter but actually opening your home to them, becoming the answer to your prayer.
Each of the book's three sections focuses on one of the three most familiar prayers in the New Testament: the Lord's Prayer, Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 and Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 that the followers of Christ would discover God's wisdom and power for their own lives. While the connection between the content and the particular prayer isn't always that strong or obvious, the authors pepper those chapters with relevant stories from their lives and the lives of others who are part of intentional communities --- and those anecdotes breathe life into the entire book. Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove leave no doubt that they live the life they encourage others to live.
Jesus, they write, brought to His time and place the concept of a new social order revolving around community, one that closely linked grace with liberation. Hospitality was intended to be a far more profound practice than simply welcoming guests into their homes. At the heart of community and hospitality is Jesus' command to His disciples to carry little with them on their journeys and to stay at homes along the way: "The disciples were not sent out in the simple poverty of an ascetic life but with a new vision of interdependence, trusting that God would provide for them." Instead of isolating ourselves by creating a super-pious community, Christians are to join with "broken sinners and evildoers in our world crying out to God, groaning for grace."
Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove are two young men who have the wisdom to speak to a psychographic that transcends age and other demographic categories. They have an established following among readers within that psychographic, and that means long-time readers of their books will find lots of familiar material in BECOMING THE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since these authors preach a message that bears repeating.
Recommended for anyone interested in social justice, intentional communities and the new monastics, as well as Christians who have grown beyond books on how to pray and want to learn instead how to live out the prayers they're already praying.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford