Book Review: Soul Work

As I mentioned in this post, I intend to do somewhat better in 2013 in regards to writing about books which I read. I really don’t enjoy writing book reviews (probably because it reminds me too much of school), but from time to time I will try to write very informal reviews and share some quotations which I found to be helpful or insightful.

I recently finished reading Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk, by Randy Harris, which focuses on prayer and spiritual living. Harris has spent considerable time among monks and religious hermits (making him somewhat of an oddity for a Church of Christ minister and professor) to gain insight on the disciples of prayer, silence, and solitude, and in Soul Work, he shares some of the lessons he has learned.

Harris has an easy-to-read style, is full of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously at all. Parts of the book were a little mystical for me, but he had a lot of good things to say. Here are some of my favorite quotations (with random thoughts by me in brackets):
“One of the reasons that I think we struggle with prayer so much is that we think we need it so little.” (p. 13) [Ouch.]
“If you’re willing to walk and talk and spend time with God, he’ll start to remake your life even when you don’t know what’s going on.” (17) 
“Obedience and submission aren’t really tested until you have to submit or obey in situations where you’re pretty sure you know a better way.” (56) 
“We often give ourselves credit for obedience when we do what we’ve already wanted to do anyway—when the real test of obedience is doing what we don’t want to do.” (57) [Ouch, again.]
“Optimism depends on human beings and hope depends on God. And while I don’t see any reason to be optimistic, I see every reason to be hopeful.” (66) 
“We would get healthier if we committed to fewer things over longer periods of time.” (72)  [Our obsessed-with-activity culture would benefit greatly from this wisdom.]
“Things are learned in suffering that can be learned in no other way.” (99) 
“What would we lose if we lost all suffering in the world? There’s no longer any courage. There’s no longer any compassion. There’s no one to be compassionate towards. There’s no longer any patience. There’s no longer any endurance. There’s no longer the love that doesn’t give up when life goes badly. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like you give up an awful lot.” (100) [Great perspective on suffering.]
“Many of the most important events in your life are going to be ones over which not only do you have no control but which you’re not even going to see coming. And there is nothing like one of those events to burst your illusion about being one of those people who’ve got things under control. Nobody expects that their children will die before them. No one looks for that debilitating disease.” (102-103) [Wow, this really rang true to me.]
“Often the greatest ministry you do is while you’re on the way to do what you think is the important ministry.” (147) [I have found this to be true in my ministry as well.]
“The goal is not to have us praying more. The goal is to have us aware of and practicing God’s presence every moment of every day.” (154)
If you are interested in examining your prayer life and looking at prayer from several perspectives that you likely haven’t before, I recommend this book.


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