It is no secret that something is going on with spirituality. Whether it is merely a passing fad, a genuine renewal, or some strange combination of both, it is not going unnoticed in the religious or secular media. Even Newsweek declared that prayer is alive and well in America! Publishers are responding by printing a plethora of resources. Thus some discernment is in order.
In the latter half of the 1970s, two books on spirituality by unknown authors won wide acclaim and attention. Kenneth Leech, an Anglican priest in England, published Soul Friend in 1977; Richard J. Foster, an evangelical Quaker, published A Celebration of Discipline in 1978. Both contributed substantially to the blooming interest in spirituality among both evangelical and mainline Christians. They now are staples in study groups and spirituality courses throughout North America and England.
Each author has a strong commitment to social justice. Neither made the lamentable mistake of separating spirituality and social concern. In faithfulness to biblical tradition, each stressed that being prayerful meant an active commitment to God's reign on Earth as in heaven.
Since then, both authors published several more books. Unfortunately, Leech's excellent books (including True Prayer, The Social Good, and Experiencing God) have not received much attention in North America.
In the last year, both produced important new books addressing the upsurge of interest in spirituality. Foster outlines basic approaches to prayer, while Leech challenges any spirituality cut off from social justice.