IF ALL goes to plan, a 50-metre-high monument will be built near Birmingham in 2023, crowdfunded by Christian donors. The soaring white infinity loop will feature a million personal testimonies from Christian believers, and is intended to be a public witness to the power of prayer (News, 18 September 2020). The main mover behind the project is the business entrepreneur Richard Gamble (Interview, 6 August), and this book explains the impulse behind the project.
Gamble claims that remembering has become a “lost art”. Today’s digital culture is instant. Knowing where to find information has become all-important, and personal recall almost redundant; mindfulness and associated spiritual disciplines prioritise the present moment; churches invite testimony to what God has done in the past week.
The result is a perfect storm of lost spiritual remembering. Retelling the acts of God — in the Bible, through church history, and from our own personal past — is falling off the agenda. In particular, Gamble says, Christians today rarely retell stories of historic answered prayer, either individually, together, or while faith-sharing. This in turn leads to a loss of thankfulness and a rise in anxiety. It also distorts the character of Christian spirituality, which should be rooted in the act and communication of God in history.
The author contrasts our current amnesia with the frequent exhortations to remember found in scripture, from Noah’s rainbow on.
Much of the book is an exposition of why God apparently places such value on remembering, along with an exploration of how people remember. Its aim is to spark story and testimony, with a caveat that our focus should be on the “why” rather than the “wow” of special moments. One chapter wrestles with hard questions of what counts as answered prayer, and explains why “unanswered prayer” is probably not a helpful category.
Gamble writes in a chatty, accessible style, with examples of the kind of remembering and retelling which he sees as a remedy for today’s spiritual amnesia. Whether the remedy also needs to include a giant infinity loop near Birmingham is a moot point. But this remains an insightful, lively book about a key spiritual dynamic of our age.
The Revd Mike Starkey is Head of Church Growth for Manchester diocese and author of the Stepping Stones for Growth course.
Remember: Revealing the eternal power of answered prayer
Church Times Bookshop £9