The Folly of Prayer: Practicing the Presence and Absence of God, By Matt Woodley

The Folly of Prayer

Practicing the Presence and Absence of God

by Matt Woodley

The Folly of Prayer
  • Length: 182 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: May 26, 2009
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3712
  • ISBN: 9780830837120

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Prayer can feel mysteriously difficult, boringly perfunctory and frustratingly out of our control. Often prayer brings us comfort, but sometimes, especially when there aren?t easy resolutions or prayers go unanswered, it intensifies and focuses our sense of longing, pain and care. And often God uses our times of darkness and desperation to awaken our hearts to the ache within us--and the cries of those suffering around us.

Prayer is all about coming before God to face life head-on, with all its jagged edges of mystery, joy, longing and agony. In fact, says pastor Matt Woodley, prayer is actually a real encounter with the untamable God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore our experience of it should reflect the power, mystery and even risk of entering into relationship with the Lord of the universe.

In this book Woodley strips away all the religious-speak and presuppositions we have about prayer, distilling it to the essence of wholehearted engagement with the living God.

Exploring an earthy, unadorned, jargon-free approach to prayer, Woodley unpacks a host of fresh synonyms for God-encounters, including prayer as desperation, invocation, mystery, astonishment, groaning and even absence. These marginal ways of praying compel us to engage marginal people--the desperate, the groaning, the victimized and the ignored. As we pray God will open our eyes to the pain of the world around us. With stories from his own experience and biblical and historical examples, Woodley gives fresh language to describe a life grounded in prayer that leads to compassion and service.

"Matt Woodley's Folly of Prayer puts language, meaning and practical helps around vital modes of prayer. The truest folly would be to ignore this biblical guidance in those murky, shifting waters of the soul's authentic connection with God!"

Mindy Caliguire, president, Soul Care

"Wherever one plunges into these eleven biblically landscaped pathways to prayer, the soul is set aloft and ablaze with the word Blaise Pascal sewed into his coat after his prayer encounter with God and wore until the day he died: FIRE."

Leonard Sweet

This book has the potential to reviatlize a believer's prayer life.

HIM, Church Libraries, Winter 2009-10

Presents eye-opening, soul-enriching opportunities for spiritual growth and deeper intimacy with God through prayer flowing out of of everyday life. Woodley's transparent, conversational tone makes this an easy, enjoyable read for the time-challenged.

Elisa Martinez, Youth Worker Journal, January/February 2010

Matt Woodley handles his subject matter with real grace, which allows the final product to transcend a simple how-to guide into profound reflections about both the presence and absence of our Maker: when we sense Him, and when He seems an infinite distance away. Honestly, I can say I've not read a better book on prayer written in this century. Woodley has a knack for conveying weighty ideas without condescending to his audience. Enlightening, relatable, and full of rich theology, The Folly of Prayer comes highly recommended.

John Wofford, The Christian Manifesto (, July 3, 2009


Introduction: Reimagining Prayer
1 Prayer as Guttural Groaning
2 Prayer as Skin, Trees, Blood, Bread and Wine
3 Prayer as Desperation
4 Prayer as Mystery
5 Prayer as Absence
6 Prayer as an Argument with God
7 Prayer as a Long, Slow Journey
8 Prayer as a Dangerous Activity
9 Prayer as Paying Attention
10 Prayer as Feeling God's Heartbeat
11 Prayer as Love
Conclusion: Prayer as Praying
Scripture Index


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Matt Woodley

Matt Woodley is managing editor for He served as a pastor for over twenty years, most recently as senior pastor of Three Village Church in Long Island, New York. He is coauthor (with his wife, Julie, and H. Norman Wright) of Surviving the Storms of Life and author of Holy Fools. He has also written a number of articles published in Discipleship Journal and Leadership Journal as well as The Mars Hill Review.