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The Folly of Prayer: Practicing the Presence and Absence of God
Author: Matt Woodley
Pages: 182 
Publisher: IVP Books
ISBN-10: 0830837124
ISBN-13: 978-0830837120 

Prayer is one of the most puzzling, troubling, and yet essential parts of a spiritual life. What is prayer for? How do we know if we're doing it right? Are there wrong kinds of prayers? In The Folly of Prayer, Pastor Matt Woodley takes us on a guided tour of prayer, touching on 11 different methods of praying. He challenges our perceptions of what prayer is and is not, and explores the surprising aspect that he calls the “folly of prayer.”

The subtitle to Woodley’s book—“Practicing the Presence and Absence of God”—is a nod to 17th Century monk Brother Lawrence, whose oft-referenced work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” explored the idea of prayer being a daily spiritual act—not just words recited to a divine audience. Woodley examines prayer in the form of words and experience. He seems to be particularly interested in challenging words and gritty experiences, and encourages us not to waste prayer on vapid niceties, but to groan, yell, kick, and scream our prayers to God as we need to. God is interested in our honesty, Woodley says, and gives references to biblical precedent throughout the book.

Woodley draws often on his own story to illustrate different aspects of prayer. At one point, he warns us that prayer can be dangerous, albeit in a good, purifying way, as he refers to a particularly painful extended time in his recent history. Although he spares us sordid details of his crisis, we understand that Woodley is writing from a point of personal experience as well as from biblical research.

The Folly of Prayer is a good read for someone who wants to gain a better understanding of what prayer does and is. It’s also a good entry point for someone who perhaps feels intimidated by prayer and so shies away from it. It would fit well on a scholar’s bookshelf or on the nightstand of a seeker.

Dave Kerschbaum 


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