On a recent visit to my parents' house, my mom asked, "What is a 'sacred echo'?" when she saw Margaret Feinberg's latest book on the coffee table. I flipped open the book and read the first passage I had highlighted. In the introduction she writes:
"As I grow in my relationship with God I find that he often uses the repetition of a phrase or word or idea represented in Scripture not only to get, but also to keep my attention. Like the persistent widow, God is a nudnik of sorts when it comes to drawing me back to himself. And I'm grateful. While a single whisper usually leaves me unsure, the repetitive nature of a sacred echo gives me confidence that God really is prompting, guiding, or leading. The sacred echo reminds me to pay close attention; something important may be going on here. The sacred echo challenges me to prayerfully consider how God is at work in my own life as well as the lives of those around me. The sacred echo is an invitation to spiritual awakening."
And THE SACRED ECHO (the book) is an invitation to consider with Feinberg the unique promises and paradoxes of prayer. This isn't a new topic for the prolific author; she circled similar material in her 2002 book GOD WHISPERS: Learning to Hear His Voice. And it's clear that she has continued to wrestle with the call to prayer in the years since that title’s publication. She would be the first to tell you that understanding prayer is a journey.
Feinberg writes, "I cannot imagine how many times God has wanted to speak with me about an encounter, experience, or exchange, but I don't have eyes to see or ears to hear. I don't pause long enough to ponder or pray. It's easy to point fingers at those in the New Testament who encountered Jesus but failed to recognize him as the Messiah. But when I look inwardly, I can't help but ask, Am I any different? Are any of us any different?"
In 10 deceptively simple chapters, Feinberg weaves together her own time-worn observations and experiences regarding prayer with biblical stories and insight. She wears her learning lightly, but her knowledge of scripture runs deep and she is quick to refer to the Bible to make her point. But she’s at her best when not actually making a point, when honestly conceding that prayer can seem futile in the face of so much pain.
Feinberg writes candidly about friends who have attempted suicide, suffered through the murder of parents, waited seemingly in vain for marriage partners. The list of hardships could go on. And there are no pat answers for why God does not see fit to answer the prayers for relief offered by these people. Instead, she offers this insight into the power of prayer: "Prayer might not change things, but it will change my perspective of things. Prayer might not change the past, but inevitably, it changes my present."
Feinberg adds, "God's desire for transformation is one of the foundational reasons for the sacred echo." And to this transformational end, she includes questions for reflection with each chapter. All told, this book of honest reflection and thoughtful biblical teaching is a valuable companion on one's own journey towards hearing God and living prayerfully.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on July 15, 2008