Saturday, November 3, 2007


“O Holy Spirit of God, so many hurt today. Help me stand with them in their suffering. I do not really know how to do this. My temptation is to offer some quick prayer and send them off rather than endure with them the desolation of suffering. Show me the pathway into their pain. In the name and for the sake of Jesus. Amen.”

FOSTER’S GIFT. This prayer of suffering, offered by Richard J. Foster, is found in his book Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home. A Quaker, Foster first stirred the minds and hearts of many with his book Celebration of Discipline in the late 1970s. It helped steer evangelicalism and the charismatic movement away from shallow emotionalism to respect for--if not celebration of--classic spiritual disciplines that have anchored Christianity from its inception. That life-deepening, arm-linking work now continues through the Renovare initiative.

INWARD, UPWARD, OUTWARD. After years of teaching and touring as a coveted speaker, Foster felt like God was telling him to be quiet for a while. His book, Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home, published by Harper San Francisco in 1992, was the fruit of nearly a year of self-imposed silence. In it, he explores prayer in three movements: inward, upward, and outward. Here are a few excerpts from the chapter titled “The Prayer of Suffering.”

REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING. “In redemptive suffering we stand with people in their sin and in their sorrow. There can be no sterile, arms length purity. Their suffering is messy business, and we must be prepared to step smack into the middle of the mess. We are crucified not just for others, but with others."

ENLARGED HEARTS. “We pray in suffering, and, as we do, we are changed. Our hearts are enlarged to accept all people. The language of they and them is converted into we and us. All the supposed superiority--whether intellectual, cultural, or spiritual--simply melts away. Together we stand under the cross.”

JOY, NOT MISERY. “Joy, not misery, is the compelling energy behind redemptive suffering. It is not that we love pain or are trying to find ways to be martyrs. This is not misery for misery’s sake. It is that God is using us for the greater good of all, which is a rather amazing notion once we stop and think about it. This is why it could be said of Jesus that he "for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). This is why we today can resonate with Peter’s words, "Rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:13).”

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