SANCTUARY OF THE SOUL
By Richard Foster
Published by Intervarsity Press (Formatio Imprint)
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I love just about everything that Richard Foster writes. So, when I saw that he was writing a new book on meditative prayer I pre-ordered it immediately. It came out a little early, and I have been slowly plodding away at reading this book. I just finished Foster's book, and I have to tell you, it exceeded my expectations.
Sanctuary of the Soul is a guide to help believers in understanding and practicing meditative prayer. I have always found meditative prayer and contemplative prayer difficult. This is because I both have some emotional discomfort with the practice of mediation in a secular/interfaith context, and because I feel like a failure when I attempt to understand and practice contemplative prayer.
Also, I have studies several books on meditative prayer, and I find the descriptions of these kinds of prayer difficult. Books like The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon's Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, and Merton's Seeds of Contemplation make me want to give up on the contemplative journey altogether.
Thankfully for me, God has raised up men like Richard Foster to write books like Sanctuary of the Soul. Foster's brilliance in his writing is that he makes challenging spiritual practices understandable, and in a small way attainable. Often as I read Foster describe a spiritual practice, I recognize that I have already prayed in that fashion. Then I read on, and I find that he often gives me very practical help in how to pray better and more meaningfully.
I found this process I described happened often as I read through Sanctuary of the Soul. For instance, Foster gives clear instructions in how to enter into meditative prayer effectively. Specifically he speaks about walking your way into meditative prayer, or reading poetry as a way to slow your mind into a more contemplative state. These are basic instructions and helpful advice in the life of prayer, but they are also things we ofen forget when we want to become more prayerful.
I discovered that there were several times where God was leading me into meditative prayer, and I did not know it because I did not have the words for it. I felt less discouraged that I could not "do mediative prayer" right, and I felt encouraged to do it in my own way. The result is a sense of grace and peace in my walk with God, and that a new way of praying can "make sense". And this is truly a gift.
I recommend many of you go out and purchase this fine book. It will be treasured in my life and on my shelf.