Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sanctuary of the Soul by Richard Foster

Foster 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)

IVP Books, 157 pages.

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