Item description for The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul by Allan Hugh Cole Jr & Allan Hugh Jr. Cole...
Overview In this highly accessible book, Cole, a pastor and theologian, offers insights on the topic of prayer. Straightforward chapters explain what prayer is and describe its spiritual and physical effects.
Allan Cole Jr. offers insights on the topic of prayer, explaining prayer and describing its spiritual and physical effects. This book is for those who are not comfortable with prayer or who have reached an impasse in their prayer lives. Cole demonstrates different kinds of prayer, helps the reader find ways to pray in various situations, and provides sample prayers. The volume includes questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.
From Publishers Weekly Books about prayer tend to champion one modus operandi. Pastor and seminary professor Cole (Good Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief) invites readers to try several methods, offering a variety of aids for those who regularly struggle with prayer. Cole stresses the importance of prayer as encounter with God, examining its roots in both ancient and modern Christian theology and practice. He then proposes making prayer an intentional habit that informs all that we do in order to connect with God and the needs of others. Despite this call for a personal bond, Cole himself remains distant, overlooking more personal styles of prayer (e.g., talking to God as though he were a friend). Readers will find a thorough body of Scripture-based, liturgical methods as well as postures and settings to improve attentiveness, memory, and ability. Each chapter ends with a prayer and includes comforting verses for the prayer-wary reader. While the book doesn't explain which prayers God answers, it aptly demonstrates prayer's inherent benefits and the ease with which prayer may be engaged. (Apr.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul by Allan Hugh Cole Jr & Allan Hugh Jr. Cole has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 03/09/2009 page 45
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Studio: Westminster John Knox
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.4" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.5" Weight: 0.45 lbs.
Release Date Mar 19, 2009
Publisher Westminster John Knox Pr
ISBN 0664230695 ISBN13 9780664230692
Availability 0 units.
More About Allan Hugh Cole Jr & Allan Hugh Jr. Cole
Allan Hugh Cole Jr isthe Nancy Taylor WilliamsonAssociate Professor of Pastoral Care at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. He serves on the editorial boards of two journals, "Pastoral Psychology" and "Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary" and is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Reviews - What do customers think about The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul?
Good Study Guide Mar 19, 2010
We are currently using this book in our ladies Sunday School class. It is a wonderful study guide as it provides a lot of thought and discussion as well as hope and inspiration.
Best Resource on Prayer I've Read Aug 19, 2009
The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul, by pastor theologian Allan Hugh Cole, Jr., was released in April 2009 from Westminster John Knox Press. Cole serves on the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and holds a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. The author or editor of five books, Cole is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). You may learn more about The Life of Prayer here and about the author here.
Cole is to be commended for packing such insightful and lasting words into such a succinct, timely, and highly readable book. Cole has received excellent praise for his work, including endorsements from Phyllis Tickle and Walter Brueggemann. The Life of Prayer just barely surpasses 130 pages and is divided into six chapters: What is Prayer, Why Do We Pray, What Are the Benefits of Prayer, With Whom Do We Pray, How Do We Pray, and How Do We Keep Praying.
In the first chapter, which serves as a brief introduction to the book and his approach, Cole notes this book offers an alternative approach to the two types of prayer books circulating--New Thought prayer, or meditative prayer that combines tenants from a multitude of world religions, and Prosperity prayer, which promises health and wealth and success. Cole chooses to use as his basis the classical biblical and theological points of view, while incorporating applicable insights from psychology. Cole describes his intention the following way:
This book examines what prayer is and what it does. It considers questions of what motivates prayer, including why you feel the need to pray even when you think that you don't know how to go about it. It also takes a close look at some of the effects of prayer, helping to deepen your awareness and understanding of what happens when you pray. With these concerns for motivations and effects in mind, this book also suggests ways for learning how to pray, by yourself and with others, so that prayer welcomes a more central part of your life. (3)
In Chapter two, Why Do We Pray, Cole notes that all questions related to prayer begin with a healthy understanding of what God does. He suggests three reasons for us to pray: "First, we pray because God acts graciously toward us. Second, we pray because Jesus prayed and invited his followers to pray. And finally, we pray because the Holy Spirit empowers us to pray" (13). As we healthily acknowledge the relationship between God and our prayer life, we become more able to make holy and unselfish requests during prayer--rather than selfish requests that attempt to make God an extension of our own desires and needs.
In relation to our effect on God during prayer, Cole quotes Karl Barth (as he does repeatedly through the book), who suggests that our prayer life does have an effect on God's actions and effects influence over him. However, it is important to distinguish between having an effect and having control. Cole even encourages the reader to "keep in mind that not calling on God can mean missing out on what God offers. Not approaching God in prayer resembles a hungry person's passing by a feast that awaits her" (26). Just as Jesus believed in God's power and approached him in prayer, so too should we.
In Chapter three, which discusses the benefits of prayer, Cole asserts that prayer is in essence "an end in itself, as opposed to a way to achieve something more significant. Prayer sometimes gets portrayed foremost as an agent for helping to secure something that we desire...In this case, we pray with at least one eye toward some greater good" (35). This approach to prayer eliminates the joy of simply existing in the presence of God. Remaining focused on God also prevents us from becoming angry and frustrated when results from prayer seem off balance. As Cole points out, this is a sure sign we have placed too sharp a focus on ourselves in prayer. "A faithful approach to prayer," says Cole "involves recognizing that God has charge over our lives and then relishing the freedom that follows" (37).
A benefit of prayer is certainly a greater awareness and knowledge of God, even though he remains a mystery, and our enhanced familiarity also causes us to continually clarify our relationship, deepen our awareness, and recognize and fulfill our responsibilities to God (42). Self-knowledge also results from our increased knowledge of God. Cole provides detail on how prayer increases our awareness of Jesus and encourages us to live more like him.
Chapter four addresses the question of whom we pray with. Cole notes that many are ambivalent about praying with other people and he attributes this in part to the assumption that the spiritual life must be a private life. However, the example of Christ highlights the importance of joining together in prayer and shows the connection between faithfulness and community. In addition, Cole lists five benefits derived from communal prayer: promotes capacities for intention, attention, and reflection, draws us deeper into the Christian story, reminds us of our shared identity in Christ, provides other examples of Christ's faithfulness, and encourages us to share other's burdens.
In Chapter five, Cole addresses the question of How do we pray? In this chapter, he offers several methods of prayer: praying the Lord's Prayer, praying Scripture (with special attention to the Psalms), the memorization of Scripture, contemplative prayer, and liturgical prayer. Praying the Lord's Prayer and other portions of Scripture allow us to slow down and make application from the text; in the same way, memorizing scripture allows the text to internalize and be readily available to apply. The last two methods mentioned, contemplative prayer and liturgical prayer, may be new to some readers and Cole provides applicable detail for this reason.
Cole provides two approaches to contemplative prayer: open prayer and centering prayer. The effectiveness of each approach seems to be determined to some degree on one's personality. Open prayer encourages you to become silent and allow your mind and prayers to be completely guided by the Spirit. In this method you are freeing "yourself up from setting any sort of agenda for prayer other than opening yourself entirely to God, such that you make receiving God, experiencing God's presence, and following God's lead your singular object of concentration" (97).
In centering prayer, you focus on one particular sacred word, such as God, love, peace, joy, guidance, forgiveness, etc. Whereas in opening prayer you eliminate focus on any one thing, centering prayer does just the opposite. Though you are focusing on one particular sacred word, the focus remains upon God and how he answers and works and guides through the word you have chosen.
Lastly, Cole mentions liturgical prayer, which uses set prayers or patterns of prayer. These patterns are typically found in prayer and worship books and other devotional style books. Perhaps the most well known is the Book of Common Prayer. This approach utilizes the process of familiarity, as words are repeated over and over each day with the goal of internalizing the promises of God or others faithful to him. I have personally found The Valley of Vision to be helpful.
The final chapter sums up the advice given to the readers and speaks to the importance of faithfulness in prayer. Cole notes that experience is the best teacher of prayer. "We are not born knowing how, nor do we become capable of prayer automatically. Instead, we must be taught to pray; we must be instructed in how to do it" (113). A persistent prayer life allows it to become a central activity of life--forming a life habit of prayer. Cole gives advice on the importance of determining helpful places or postures for prayer and how variety can aid commitment to prayer.
The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul is a valued resource for several reasons; Cole is effective at leading the reader to application, keeps the Gospel and the example of Christ as the central focus, demonstrates the balance between private and communal prayer, and provides programs of prayer that will fit a multitude of needs. This book should be on the shelf of every person looking to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ and seeking to close the gap that the busy world creates. The best book on prayer I've read.