Fosdick was the first widely known modern American Liberal Christian. At a time when society was just beginning to change at a breathtaking pace, Fosdick sought in The Meaning of Prayer to argue for a modern, relevant faith, one that did not fear the world but instead engaged it with curiosity and a willingness to tackle the hard questions of belief in God and the reality of prayer. Fosdick’s liberal take on Christianity finally declares that the act of prayer is universal, that God is an eternal power accessible to all, and that all humans are born with an intrinsic need to pray that cuts across exclusive claims of “old time religion” and scientific doubt.
Fosdick’s book still resonates as true more than 90 years after its first publication because it offers prayer forms that are practical, accessible, and possible for the average person. Fosdick did not write this book for theologians or scholars, though as a text on prayer it is theological. By shaping The Meaning of Prayer as a prayer workbook and not merely a book about prayer, Fosdick opens prayer to those in his emerging modern world who viewed prayer with rational skepticism and those who needed to find God anew and escape the tired images of the divine they inherited from childhood and traditional orthodoxy. Fosdick takes the hand of his reader, as if to say, “Let’s talk about prayer as a real possibility for your life of faith,” and then gently and eloquently he accompanies them on this journey into the very life of God. As Fosdick understates in his introduction:This little book has been written in the hope that it may help to clarify a subject which is puzzling many minds . . . a theoretical deity saves no man from sin and disheartenment. . . . Such vital consequences require a living God who actually deals with men.