Summary: A wandering, but very encouraging story of how obedience can be used by God.
I know that some dismiss books that are written ‘with…’. These are books where a person has a story to tell but does not have the time (and usually skill) to tell it well in book form. Whenever I have hear automatic dismissal I think of the work that John and Elizabeth Sherrill did in bring the stories of Brother Andrew, Corrie Ten Boom, David Wilkerson and many others where their names did not clearly appear in the ‘with…’ section.
I do want to say clearly, that while I am supportive of people like the Sherrills and Dave Roberts in this book, I think these cowriters need to always be acknowledged and Christian publishers in particular need to stop the practice of hidden ghost writers.
In the Grace Outpouring, Roy Godwin tells the story of how God has used him and the Ffald-y-Brenin retreat center in Wales to bless others and bring God’s power to the people that visit the retreat center, the community around the retreat center, and even people that have never been there.
Testimony stories like this are an important part of Christian literature. Sometimes I can forget how important a part they are. These types of books are usually not great literary works, but instead are simple narratives of Gods work in normal people’s lives.
In Roy Godwin’s example, God choose a broken business man and evangelist and his wife to lead a retreat center into becoming a ‘house of prayer.’ Early in the book he focuses on how they prayed blessings over individuals and God directly worked in their lives to bring about salvation, spiritual and emotional healing (and later in the book physical healing.)
The emphasis at the front end, and throughout the book, is that Godwin has felt led to pray for people’s blessing, not for them to ‘hit bottom’ or get convicted of sin. He is still convinced of the reality of sin, just not his own role in praying for conviction of sin.
The early method of evangelism in the book was to simply pray that people be drawn to Ffald-y-Brenin. Then when people came to ask about it, they would be given a cup of tea, offered a tour of the grounds which would end in the chapel. Then Roy Godwin (or whoever was giving the tour) would ask if they could pray a blessing over the visitors and then leave them alone in the chapel as God dealt with them. This method clearly was relying on God to be the primary actor and not on any particular skill of the evangelist, which is why they particularly made it a rule to leave the people alone after the blessing.
The book is a bit disjointed overall. After a chapter about praying the blessing, then there are chapters about Roy’s background and coming to the center, how a prayer for the blessing of the community became a world wide movement of prayer, sections on physical healing, building a cross and other acts of obedience and then the final couple chapters that were more about how others could also participate in there own way.
What I appreciated is that Godwin is clearly never saying, ‘this is what worked for us, so you should try it as well.’ It is the opposite. This is a book on obedience, doing what God says as he ask and then only later will you see how God weaves together a plan that we never could have envisioned for ourselves. Godwin is also saying that following God usually means acting out of weakness and in ways that might seem odd or not tried before.
I am not a charismatic believer, but I have spent enough time working with International Renewal Ministries and the Pastors Prayer Summits in Chicago that I understand the power of prayer. My time with Pastor’s Prayer Summits was some of the most important times of my spiritual life. I believe that the time is setting me up for something later. So I am encouraged by this book to believe that God can act through unimportant individuals and groups.
But just as encouraging is the fact that this is an ecumenically focused book. Godwin is clearly of the charismatic stream, but I think also Anglican. He is supportive of a wide group of Christians in the book and seems to be intentionally trying to encourage ecumenical prayer in the best sense of that idea.
The phrase House of Prayer I think has been a bit co-opted by the Kansas City based International House of Prayer and there have been some problems there with some bad leadership and cultish behavior. At the same time I know some very good leaders that are connected with IHOP. Roy Godwin, while mentioning IHOP is not in that same stream. Because he is in a very rural area of Wales and they have few staff at his retreat center, that type of 24 hour a day prayer was never practical. Instead his vision was more about encouraging prayer and being a missional community.
The theology behind Godwin’s house of prayer work I fully support. It is dependent on God, ecumenical, outreach oriented, interested in being a part of the local community, non-confrontational, and open to God’s direction.
As I was finishing up this book I started Thomas Keating’s Intimacy With God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer. In both I was struck by similar themes of the importance of trinitarian theology to prayer, the importance of submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit, the importance of prayer to knowing God and the focus of the Christian life being the actual on going life of the christian, not the short term ‘decision for Christ’.
Two books written nearly 20 years apart, one from a Catholic monk and one from a lay Protestant prayer leader both are identifying as one of the weaknesses of the church a modernist concept of God as a distant actor that we know about, but do not actually know personally. From that point they are very different, one talking about a particular type of prayer and one talking about a missional community of prayer. But the initial diagnosis of the problem is very similar.
It is one of the reason I so often say that we need to be reading widely within the church.
Grace Outpouring is a book I would encourage you to pick up and be encouraged by. Even if you are not completely comfortable with either prayer or the Charismatic stream of Christianity, it is good to pick it up and see that God can, and does work in many different ways.
(By the way, I know many that have never participated or felt the presence of God in the ways described in this book, but are some of them are most spiritually mature people I know. Do not take my words here as suggesting that there is a spiritual maturity connected with the Charismatic stream of Christianity. There might be spiritual maturity, but it is focused on the obedience, not the Charismatic activity.)
The Grace Outpouring: Blessing Others Through Prayer by Roy Godwin with Dave Roberts Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook – Audiobook is discounted to $7.49 with purchase of Kindle Book