Whispers That Delight: Building a Listening-Centered Prayer Life, by Andrew T. Hawkins (Word Alive Press, 2008)
“Does your prayer life seem like a one-way conversation? Do you have difficulty quieting yourself to listen to God?”
These questions from the back cover of Whispers That Delight may evoke quiet “yes” responses from many Christians. Andrew Hawkins knows better than to offer an instant fix. Instead, his PARE approach is a framework within which we can deepen our prayer like. And it can be used whether you have ten minutes or an hour.
It seems paradoxical to suggest the way to more intimate communion with God could come through a structured format, although the Old Testament Israelites wouldn’t have found it so. In Whispers That Delight the format is simply the means to a desirable end, and the author makes it clear that the Holy Spirit’s prompting must take precedence over externally-imposed structure.
The acronym PARE describes Rev. Hawkins’ pattern for prayer, and he reminds us that to pare is to cut or shave away thin layers. As we pare off “the superficial things which occupy our minds,” (p. viii) he promises we’ll discover more of God.
P is for preparation, when we refocus from ourselves to the goodness of God in praise and thanksgiving. This is also where we confess anything that’s inhibiting our communion with God and receive His forgiveness and restoration.
A is attentiveness, with our spirits fixed on God’s presence to hear what He may have to say. One person may “hear” words, another impressions or images, another through reading and meditating on Scripture.
R is our response: to love, to intercede or repent, to act. Rev. Hawkins says, “Although God gives specific guidance and even surprises us with supernatural directives, when we meet him in prayer he primarily empowers us to do what we already know to do.” (p. 95)
E is a fitting end: enjoyment. Instead of rushing off into the day with a “Thanks, God!” we need to take time to linger a few minutes in His presence, just for the experience of being with Him.
Not that we should stop praying then—the concept of prayer without ceasing, practicing His presence, is worth pursuit. But our intimate, one-on-One prayer session has ended for another day.
Whispers That Delight comes with three appendices, one of which I think would serve better at the beginning: “Tips on Reading Whispers That Delight”. Essentially, the tips are “Read with the heart, read small portions at a time, and to go deeper, study the quoted Scriptures.”
Reading in bite-sized chunks is definitely wise. This isn’t at all a hard read, but the subject itself requires careful consideration and prayerful pondering. To breeze through Whispers That Delight would be to “read” the words and miss their effect on our hearts. I’m glad I took it slowly.
Rev. Andrew T. Hawkins is a Canadian author, and pastor to St. Paul’s Congregational Church in Ontario. Whispers That Delight is a book for all denominations and levels of faith, and it received The Word Guild 2009 Writing Award in the Book—Biblical Studies category.