The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World, By John Starke

The Possibility of Prayer

Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World

by John Starke

The Possibility of Prayer
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: February 11, 2020
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4579
  • ISBN: 9780830845798

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The world clamors for efficiency and productivity.

But the life of prayer is neither efficient nor productive. Instead, as we learn in the psalms, prayer calls us to wait, to watch, to listen, to taste, and to see. These things are not productive by any modern measure—but they are transformative.

As a pastor in Manhattan, John Starke knows the bustle and busyness of our society. But he also knows that prayer is not just for spiritual giants. Prayer, he writes, is for each of us—not because we are full of spiritual wisdom and maturity, but because we are empty. Here is an invitation to discover, via the church's ancient rhythms and with Starke's clear, practical guidance, the possibility of prayer. Here is a book about prayer that is really a book about the whole Christian life.

"Prayer has never come easy to me, and there have been seasons when it has seemed impossible. I so want a life of prayer, but the possibility of prayer in the present moment often eludes me. In this book, my friend John Starke offers deep pastoral and biblical wisdom for those who want to answer God's invitation to prayer and to a deeper relationship with him."

Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America

"The information saturation and attention decay of the present moment can make prayer seem counterintuitive. In this book John Starke shows us how prayer has always been just that, a pull away from the ephemeral into the eternal. This book will show you the way to clearing your attention and your schedule in order to communicate with the One who loves you and holds your life together."

Russell Moore, president, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

"If you find the idea of prayer impossible in today's hyperconnected world, you're not alone. But it's precisely this dilemma that makes The Possibility of Prayer such a powerful book. In this excellent volume, Starke explores how our established habits and daily rhythms will either make space for prayer or silence it before we even begin. With a pastor's heart, Starke then invites us, not simply to the act of prayer, but to lives of which prayer is a natural and necessary part."

Hannah Anderson, author of Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul

"There are all sorts of reasons to praise The Possibility of Prayer: it is honest, rich, practical, realistic, deep, refreshing, sometimes poetic, and frequently profound. But the highest praise I can give it is that it did exactly what I'd hoped for—it helped me to pray. I am so grateful for John Starke, and for this book."

Andrew Wilson, teaching pastor, King's Church London

"The Possibility of Prayer is beautiful and deeply countercultural. John isn't asking us to layer another obligation on top of our lives but inviting us to a fundamental reorientation rooted in God's presence. Because John pastors a busy people in a busy city, he knows the cultural obstacles and the existential hurdles. But this is a profoundly hopeful and eminently practical book. What a gift this is to all of us!"

Chuck DeGroat, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality, Western Theological Seminary

"Like anything worthwhile, a robust life of prayer does not come easily. Especially in our distracted age, we can throw in the towel on prayer before we even begin to explore the riches God has for us there. If you find yourself wishing that your prayers had more focus, more consistency, more zeal, more comfort, more fire—and more of God—John has provided a helpful, hopeful field guide for this worthy endeavor."

Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, author of Jesus Outside the Lines and Irresistible Faith

"What stands out above all about this book is its pastoral gentleness. You will look in vain in these pages for any judgmental tongue clucking about how dismal your prayer life probably is. Instead you will meet a fellow pilgrim eager to lead you to the rest—or better, to the One who gives rest and is himself rest—he has met in prayer."

Wesley Hill, associate professor of biblical studies, Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania

"This is the kind of book we need right now. Starke doesn't just show us how to pray but how to form a life of prayer—and in turn, how prayer can form a life."

Justin Whitmel Earley, business lawyer at Earley Legal Group and author of The Common Rule, Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

"I've known and worked with John Starke for nearly a decade, and I can attest that he writes as he lives—as a man devoted to follow God from the depths of his heart. I've learned so much from watching him lead his family and church, and I learned even more through this penetrating new book. I didn't just glean from his experience or study; he helped me see more of God himself. And what greater need could any of us claim today?"

Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church

"There few people I know who are as pastoral, thoughtful, and focused on transformative work as John Starke. This book reflects all of those values, making prayer feel accessible and urgent for our frenzied times. For those struggling to learn to pray, this is a timely and invaluable resource."

Mike Cosper, host of the Cultivated podcast and author of Recapturing the Wonder

"In The Possibility of Prayer John Starke has done something masterful. He has woven together a framework of the deep questions of prayer with its most compelling practices. Touching the mind, inspiring the heart, and rooted in formative practices, this book will indeed make that which seems impossible, possible, helping you become someone who lives and loves a prayerful life. Highly recommended!"

Jon Tyson, lead pastor, Church of the City New York, author of The Burden is Light

Read an Excerpt



Part I: The Possibility of Prayer
1. The Impossibility of Prayer
2. The Places of Prayer
3. The Invitation of Prayer
4. Outgrowing the Reactionary Heart
5. Pain in Prayer
6. Waiting and Prayer

Part II: The Practice of Prayer
7. Communion
8. Meditation
9. Solitude
10. Fasting and Feasting
11. Sabbath Resting
12. Corporate Worship


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John Starke

John Starke is the lead pastor at Apostles Church Uptown in New York City. He is the coeditor (with Bruce Ware) of One God in Three Persons. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.