Home > Christianity, Criticism, Theology > Prayer and the Common Life

Prayer and the Common Life

  • Author: Georgia Harkness Abingdon
  • Price:  $25.00
  • Published on: 2005-08
  • Language: English
  • 228 pages

In Prayer and the Common Life, pioneering theologian Georgia Harkness argues that in response to the troubles of the world around us—one that is consumed with materialism, constantly at war, and filled with social injustices of all kinds—what is most needed is a revitalization of “vital, God-centered, intelligently grounded” prayer.

Instead of prayer that merely insulates one from the world, focusing on psychological states or absolving a person from taking action, Harkness advocates prayer that “makes a difference in the common life”—that is, prayer that transforms both the person praying and the world for which he or she prays.  The problem, says Harkness, is that many people simply have never experienced this kind of transforming prayer and have become skeptical about the effectiveness of prayer in their lives.  She therefore describes “vital” prayer from three directions. The “foundations” of prayer relate prayer to the basic structures of Christian faith and show how prayer includes elements of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession, commitment, assurance, and ascription to Christ.  The “methods” of prayer include hindrances to prayer as well as suggestions of how it may be engaged in both private devotions and congregational worship.  And the “fruits” of prayer center on the ways vital, transforming prayer can contribute to peace in one’s life and in the world.

Written in the same accessible style that characterizes her other works, Georgia Harkness’s Prayer and the Common Life addresses concerns that are still relevant to today’s readers.

 “Scholarship and fine writing are united with a devotional approach to the supreme experience available to the human soul.”     — Christian Herald

 “One of the most simple, comprehensive, and helpful books on prayer that we have.”   — Journal of Bible and Religion

 “This marches straight toward its goal, which is to provide a manual … for people who want to pray but know not how.”– Christian Century

“This book is a rare combination of information and inspiration. It answers the whats, whys, and hows of prayer. It will inspire the slothful to new zeal in prayer; it will help the dissatisfied to find satisfaction in prayer; it will give the zealous new joy in prayer. . . . Deserves a place in every preacher’s library.”– Review and Expositor

About the Author

Georgia Harkness was educated at Cornell University, Boston University School of Theology, studied at Harvard & Yale theological seminaries and at Union Theological Seminary of New York. She has taught at Elmira College, Mount Holyoke, and for twelve years was professor of applied theology at Garrett Biblical Institute. In 1950 she became professor of applied theology at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California. Published by Abingdon Press, New York, Nashville. Copyright by Stone & Pierce 1968. The material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


A new order of peace and justice, abatement of economic and racial tension, the banishment of ignorance, poverty, and disease will not come about solely through prayer. Nevertheless, without the spiritual and moral resources which prayer exists to heighten, the action required for dealing with such issues is likely to go on being as limited and as misdirected by self-interest as we now see it.

Chapter 1: Prayer and Christian Belief

There is no possibility of prayer unless it can be seen to make sense. Our first task, therefore, is to ask how it fits in with the rest of Christian belief. Dr. Harkness discusses prayer in several theological forms: 1. God is personal; 2. God is the all-wise and ever-present Creator and Ruler of the world; 3. God loves and cares for his human children; 4. God has good purpose and destiny for our lives; 5. God judges and seeks to save us.

Chapter 2: Prayer as Adoration and Thanksgiving

The elements and component parts of prayer. Prayer as adoration, thanksgiving and praise.

Chapter 3: Prayer as Confession and Petition

The elements and component parts of prayer. Prayer as confession and petition.

Chapter 4: Prayer as Intercession and Commitment

The elements and component parts of prayer. Prayer as intercession and commitment.

Chapter 5: Prayer as Assurance and Ascription to Christ

The elements and component parts of prayer. Prayer as assurance and ascription to Christ.

Chapter 6: Hindrances to Prayer

The hindrances to prayer: personal attitudes; the social environment; nervous tension and spiritual dryness.

Chapter 7: Ways of Praying

The problem of method; times and places; in the morning; at bedtime; grace before meals.

Chapter 8: Private Devotions

The period of private devotions; meditation and devotional aids; self-examination; prayer; posture and diction; distractions and wandering thoughts; the test of achievement.

Chapter 9: Congregational Worship

Congregational must be centered upon God, appropriate, unhurried, combined with alertness and receptivity in the worshiper; it must be intellectually sincere and accompanied by active service to God and other persons. It must be related to the total life of commitment to God in faith. Beauty, symbolism, vocal self-expression, worship by radio are discussed.

Chapter 10: Prayer and Peace of Mind

Prayer and peace of mind; psychology and prayer; obstacles to peace of mind; prayer and frustration.

Chapter 11: Fear, Loneliness, and Grief

What stands in the way of happiness and peace of mind? Fear; Loneliness; Grief.

Chapter 12: Sin and Guilt

Liberal thought is often seen to be too marginal a concept. The reality, the pervasiveness, and seriousness of sin cannot be overstated, but needs to be stated in a context which relates it to our total psychic life: Sin and finiteness; guilt and feeling guilty; forgiveness, human and divine.

Chapter 13: Prayer and the Peace of the World

Praying for peace: The requirements for peace; prayer and works of good will. Of all the many things the world now needs, none is more needed than an upsurge of vital, God-centered, intelligently-grounded prayer.

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