It's both rare and refreshing to discover a new perspective on prayer. But if anyone can provide that perspective, it's Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Each is a prominent voice in what has come to be known as the "new monasticism" movement, which is characterized in part by an emphasis on prayer and communal living among the poor.
Not surprisingly, BECOMING THE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS also places an emphasis on prayer coupled with action. "Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do," the authors write in the introduction. That may mean not just praying that a homeless family finds shelter but actually opening your home to them, becoming the answer to your prayer.
Each of the book's three sections focuses on one of the three most familiar prayers in the New Testament: the Lord's Prayer, Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 and Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 that the followers of Christ would discover God's wisdom and power for their own lives. While the connection between the content and the particular prayer isn't always that strong or obvious, the authors pepper those chapters with relevant stories from their lives and the lives of others who are part of intentional communities --- and those anecdotes breathe life into the entire book. Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove leave no doubt that they live the life they encourage others to live.
Jesus, they write, brought to His time and place the concept of a new social order revolving around community, one that closely linked grace with liberation. Hospitality was intended to be a far more profound practice than simply welcoming guests into their homes. At the heart of community and hospitality is Jesus' command to His disciples to carry little with them on their journeys and to stay at homes along the way: "The disciples were not sent out in the simple poverty of an ascetic life but with a new vision of interdependence, trusting that God would provide for them." Instead of isolating ourselves by creating a super-pious community, Christians are to join with "broken sinners and evildoers in our world crying out to God, groaning for grace."
Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove are two young men who have the wisdom to speak to a psychographic that transcends age and other demographic categories. They have an established following among readers within that psychographic, and that means long-time readers of their books will find lots of familiar material in BECOMING THE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since these authors preach a message that bears repeating.
Recommended for anyone interested in social justice, intentional communities and the new monastics, as well as Christians who have grown beyond books on how to pray and want to learn instead how to live out the prayers they're already praying.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on September 3, 2008