PRAYER
A New Encounter


an excerpt

Martin Thornton


Authorized Reissue

Forewords by JOHN MACQUARRIE


© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. Reissued with permission of Monica Thornton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.

First British edition, 1972
by Hodder and Stoughton, London

First United States edition, 1988
by Cowley Publications, Cambridge, MA

Cover image “Descent of the Holy Spirit” by bobsh_tis licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original





CONTENTS

Forewords by J. Macquarrie
Personal Preface

PART ONE
I LIVE IN THIS WORLD . . .

1. Why Change Anyway?
2. Old Maps
3. The New Map in Outline
4. I and Me

PART TWO
. . . AND I BELIEVE IN THE CREED

5. Triune Being
6. Triune Activity
7. The Disclosure of Being
8. Jesus Christ: Human-Being
9. Community of Faith

PART THREE
WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

10. What Do I Do Next?
11. The New Map as Prayer
12. The Meaning of Contemplation
13. The Prayer of Empathy
14. Silence
15. Personal Conclusion





FOREWORD TO THE 1972 EDITION
by
JOHN MACQUARRIE

Prayer, worship, spirituality — these constitute a major problem for the Church today. For many people, the traditional forms seem to have gone dead. Yet a purely secular or religionless Christianity has proved itself to be sterile, and there is plenty evidence among the younger generation of a search for a viable spirituality.

Can the Church respond to this search? In the present book, Dr Thornton shows us what such a response might be — a response that is intellectually honest and that takes both contemporary theology and the contemporary world seriously. I am especially pleased that Dr Thornton has drawn so much on my own theological work in the writing of this book. His profound knowledge of ascetical theology has enabled him to draw implications from my work of which I was not myself aware, though for the most part I think these are consonant with my intentions.

While this book breaks new ground in spirituality, Dr Thornton is well aware of the continuing value of the tradition, provided that we penetrate behind the conventional stereotypes to the living realities. "Any genuinely new spirituality," he writes, "will contain ancient elements within it, but reinterpreted and reformed." I believe that his book will make a major contribution to one of the great needs of our time.



FOREWORD TO THE 1988 EDITION
by
John Macquarrie

It was in the nineteen-sixties that I first met Martin Thornton. He was on a visit to the United States from St Deiniol's Library [now called Gladstone's Library], and offered a "quiet day" in one of the New York churches. A quiet day is always valuable, but amid the strains of life in New York City, such a day has at least twice the value it has anywhere else. That was especially true at the time of his visit, when radical theologians were extolling the virtues of the secular and even questioning the reality of God, so that one began to wonder whether there was still any value in prayer and worship.

The quiet day did indeed offer an occasion for thought and reflection, but it certainly was in no sense a time when everything stood still. On the contrary, we were being challenged by new thoughts about Christian spirituality. We were being asked to accept the modern world and modern thought, and to rethink the spiritual life in the new context, for it is in this context that we all have to live. At that time Fr Thornton had just written a book which he called The Rock and the River. The rock is the abiding truth of Christian faith, the river is the constantly flowing stream of new ideas, new customs, new institutions that arise in human history. Fr Thornton saw the necessity of establishing communication between them. He believed that priority much still be given to prayer and study, but that these cannot just be taken over from the past but must be related to the world as it is today.

Not only did I greatly profit from this quiet day, it was also the occasion when I formed with Martin a friendship that lasted until his death more than twenty years later. I was privileged to have many conversations with him and to be allowed to share his new thoughts on prayer and the spiritual life. It was in 1972 that he showed me the typescript of his new book, Prayer: A New Encounter, now being reissued. He greatly honored me by asking me to write a brief foreword to that first edition, because he had to some extent drawn on my own theological writings in his quest for a dialog between Christian spirituality and modern thought. I believed — and still believe — that his book touches on some of the deepest needs of our time. Christianity without prayer, without adoration, is sterile; on the other hand, prayer that is not firmly inserted into the context of contemporary life is beating the air.

Martin Thornton had the vision of healing this breach in Christian discipleship, and this book shows how he went about realizing the vision. May this new edition continue to help forward the work to which he devoted himself in his lifetime.


Go to PERSONAL PREFACE.


© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. Reissued with permission of Monica Thornton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.