Rhythms of Grace

Finding intimacy with God in a busy life

Tony Horsfall

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Drawing on the insights and disciplines of contemplative spirituality, Tony writes without legalism to help us engage and encounter God through Christ in meaningful ways. This book will significantly widen our worship experience as we present our real selves to a real God.
Dave Bilbrough, international songwriter and worship leader


Rhythms of Grace emerges from a personal exploration of contemplative spirituality. Coming from an evangelical and charismatic background, Tony Horsfall felt an increasing desire to know God more deeply. At the same time, he felt an increasing dissatisfaction with his own spiritual life, as well as concern at the number of highly qualified and gifted people involved in Christian ministry who experience burn-out.

In this book he shows how contemplative spirituality, with its emphasis on realising our identity as God's beloved children and on being rather than doing, has vital lessons for us about discovering intimacy with God. It also provides essential insights about building a ministry that is both enjoyable and sustainable.

Includes questions for reflection and action at the end of each chapter.

The words of Jesus:

'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.'
Matthew 11:28 - 30 (The Message)


'Tony Horsfall would be satisfied if we could all say, 'I've got rhythm,' because he believes that rhythm is the secret to Christian happiness and fruitfulness. It is a rhythm of advance and retreat, going out and going in, activity and time with God. Tony gives down-to-earth guidance on how we build that rhythm into our lives. Seldom do writers make these great lessons so easily available to the average reader, but Tony does it. This is a wonderful book.'
Major Peter Farthing, Salvation Army, Sydney


You've placed a hunger in my heart...
You've caused a thirst that I cannot ignore;
You've stirred a passion that will drive me
into Your presence
And I won't rest until You've heard
My cry for more.

That verse from one of Stuart Townend's worship songs describes so accurately the hunger that is gnawing at many hearts in these days when the pace of life seems to accelerate year by year. I have heard that heart-hunger being expressed in many parts of the world, from Singapore and Malaysia to England and North America. I heard it being expressed some years ago by the author of this book when he first came to our home to make a retreat towards the end of his sabbatical leave.

During that retreat and since, Tony Horsfall has tasted and seen for himself that 'the Lord is good'. Many readers and would-be contemplatives will be grateful to him for the time he has spent sharing with us some of the fruit of his own exploration into a form of prayer that has set him free to enjoy an ever-deepening intimacy with God.

The way the contents of the book have been spread out reminds me of an appetising buffet. Every chapter spreads before us a variety of tempting titbits. Sample them and they simply whet your appetite so that you find yourself going back for more - and more, and more. Take Chapter 8, for example. Here we read, 'If we seek him, we shall find him; if we have a longing for him, it will eventually be satisfied.' Such sentences are to be savoured and reflected on. As we reflect, God's Spirit may well stir up in us a desire for more - more stillness, more sustenance, more of God's love, more of God himself.

The author makes this claim: 'When we meet God in the person of Jesus, we experience beauty - sheer loveliness, tenderness, compassion, charm and grace' (p. 68). That has been my experience as I have read and prayed with the contents of this book. That is why it is a joy for me to recommend the following pages to those who can no longer ignore or push away the passion for God's presence that has been planted in their hearts by God's Spirit. In particular, I warmly recommend it to those who find their hearts echoing the kind of sentiments that are voiced in Stuart Townend's song but who come from a church background that has never taught or understood the value of a more still approach to God.

As I have read, reread and prayed with each chapter of this book, there have been occasions when I have sensed the anointing of God's Spirit on the insights shared. My prayer as this little gem goes to print again is that through its pages and by the grace of God, readers will find themselves enriched and enlightened and that they will be nourished as they feast from the banquet spread before them. Whenever this happens, the author will be rewarded for the hard work he has poured into this book and God will be glorified. For this I pray.

Joyce Huggett

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Drawing on the insights and disciplines of contemplative spirituality, Tony writes without legalism to help us engage and encounter God through Christ in meaningful ways. This book will significantly widen our worship experience as we present our real selves to a real God.
Dave Bilbrough, international songwriter and worship leader

Reading this book was like drinking refreshing water. It satisfied a thirsty soul. It pointed me back to Jesus and his releasing rhythms of life. Too quickly we are working for him rather than walking with him. I believe this is one of the most important books written in recent years because it is about depth and intimacy. For over-busy Christians and leaders, this book is a must. It is about much more than pace in the race. It is about going deeper with Jesus.
The Right Reverend Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, Church of Ireland

Written in a readable style, this book has been a helpful introduction for me to contemplative spirituality and its practice. I have been challenged to live by it, and to please God by my being with him rather than my being busy for him. I commend this book to all who desire to be drawn closer to God because he is pleased with who we are more than what we do.
Paul Tan, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, Singapore

This is one of those books which has had a profound influence on my life. Tony not only reminds us of our need to slow down and simply 'be' with God, he also illustrates how we can do this, by providing practical guidelines on meditation and contemplative prayer. This book can enrich your walk with God.
Debbie Lovell-Hawker, Clinical Psychologist, Interhealth , London

I have read, and read, and read again this wise and gentle book, and each read has only increased my hunger to know and to love God and to walk the ancient pathways and embrace the age-old practices which Tony unwraps for us in its pages. This is a book for those of us who are weary of disappointing short-cuts to intimacy, and who long for a rich and deep and transformative relationship with God. In this book Tony reminds us of God's yearning for the love of our hearts, and shows us ways by which we can respond to that love. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Mags Duggan, Redcliffe College, Gloucester

As a busy church leader, I find the invitation to experience the unforced rhythms of grace incredibly compelling. Yet to go beyond the invitation and actually walk in that intimate grace is another thing altogether. Tony Horsfall, a self-confessed activist, turns out to be perfect company for a busy Christian who wants to escape the destructive and depleting spiral of ever-increasing activity. Tony's book calls us to focus on the true Master of life - Jesus - who not only extends the invitation to this beautiful way of living, but has modelled it himself, and indeed offers to show us how on a daily basis. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of every active Christian, and in turn finds its way into their hearts and lives.
Erik Jespersen, Pastor, Woking Vineyard Church

The first edition of this book made me realise how hungry I was for God. I was a spiritual anorexic and I didn't even know how starved I was for something other than what I thought it meant to be a Christian. In England, at a retreat centre near Oxford, I absorbed the book walking fields, dangling hot feet in cold streams, sipping wine in pubs, and late at night huddled under warm blankets. Tony shares his experiences of becoming worn out following evangelical voices urging us to win the world for Christ and charismatic voices promising us to be able to do it faster and better. He found rest in the contemplative tradition. For the first time in many years I felt I could breathe and relax in God's company.
Fran Love, spiritual director and cross-cultural communicator, Arizona

By reading this book in a little church group, we learned to practise God's contemplation rather than to do more and more. Taking time to hear and admire our God is the key to our development. As we studied we experienced the nearness of God and his love.
Genevieve Utermann, Switzerland

Rhythms of Grace met the thirst of my heart and the longing of my spirit for guidance and direction in pursuing Christ's presence as opposed to continually trying to please him through performance. Instead of having to constantly work harder - the only response to salvation I'd previously understood - Tony helped me realise my desperate need to rest, reflect and spend time alone with Jesus. This book is water on a faith gone dry. May it refresh and renew your faith as it has mine.
Keith Dodson, Director of Human Resources, Missionary Maintenance Services Aviation, Ohio

Tony Horsfall would be satisfied if we could all say, 'I've got rhythm,' because he believes that rhythm is the secret to Christian happiness and fruitfulness. It is a rhythm of advance and retreat, going out and going in, activity and time with God. Tony gives down-to-earth guidance on how we build that rhythm into our lives. Seldom do writers make these great lessons so easily available to the average reader, but Tony does it. This is a wonderful book.
Major Peter Farthing, Salvation Army, Sydney

Author info

Tony Horsfall is a freelance trainer and retreat leader, whose work regularly takes him around the world. He has written a number of books for BRF, including Mentoring for Spiritual Growth and Working from a Place of Rest, which has been reprinted twice since publication. He also contributes to New Daylight Bible reading notes.


Last year I read an article by Tony Horsfall in 'The Reader' magazine (I am a Reader in the Anglican Church) which was basically promoting his book Rhythms of Grace.

Two years earlier, I had left a large evangelical, charismatic church in the city centre to work with a church in my local community on the edge of the city. I had already been challenged to consider my identity in Christ: that I am not defined by what I do but by who I am - a child of God. In my local church, my ideas of worship were broadened to include Celtic Daily Prayer. I learnt that silence in prayer meetings was not an awkward pause but a time to be valued. So when I realised that Tony's book was advocating Contemplative Spirituality and that the author came from my sort of background, I decided to buy it. I wanted to investigate further how I could have a deeper intimacy with God; to know Him better - not just theologically but in relationship.

The book lived up to my expectations. Because my background is similar to Tony Horsfall's, I could identify with the author. He's not criticising the evangelical/charismatic church, just saying there is more! Worship is not all about words and doing; Jesus said 'Come' as well as 'Go'. In my mission-focussed city church, 'go' had prominently featured; 'come' in the sense of just spending time with Jesus to enjoy his presence had not been given the same import. We were too busy 'doing' and had little time for 'being' or 'resting', which consequently led to discouragement and feelings of guilt for not having done enough.

I had started to realise the importance of 'being' before reading Rhythms of Grace but this book has helped both in my thinking and in practice. It is very readable with concise chapters, yet it is full of helpful and practical advice. I have not only read it but studied it. I am learning more and more the value of times of silence and solitude away from the noise and busyness of life; that effective 'doing' comes from the strength of being with God, assured of his love.

Review by Sheila McKay

From Christianity Magazine - June 2012

Tony Horsfall is a charismatic evangelical who, in his quest to know God more deeply and to avoid burnout, felt God call him to journey into a contemplative form of spirituality.

Rhythms of Grace explains the basic tenets of this spirituality in a reflective and inspiring way. Each chapter involves a theme such as stillness, solitude or contemplation. Horsfall's material is well-researched, rooted in scripture and accessible.

He also includes a useful six-session small group resource. Each session looks at the biblical foundations for a discipline such as silence or biblical meditation, and then offers ideas for the group to try this out.

If you long to find deeper intimacy with God, or you have never engaged with the contemplative tradition, this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Lucinda van der Hart

Tired and worn out? Burnt out on religion? If so, you may wish to read Tony Horsfall's book, Rhythms of Grace, which is written out of a deep concern for the many activist Christians like himself who are caught up in a "spiral of ever-increasing activity". Not surprisingly, he notes that many qualified and gifted Christians in the evangelical/charismatic section of the church are dissatisfied and suffering burn-out. Starting with a brief, yet clear and interesting description of evangelical and charismatic spiritualities, Horsfall suggests that a contemplative spirituality will bring the necessary balance to make ministry more enjoyable and sustainable. He writes: "There seems to be something lacking in our spirituality, for the way many of us currently practise the Christian life leads us more to activity than to intimacy.

As a result, many of us seem to endure our faith rather than enjoy it, for it brings us increasingly into the busyness of the outer life and less and less into the vitality of the inner life." Even though Horsfall specifically addresses the many activists in the evangelical/charismatic tradition, I am sure his observation resonates with ministers and members in all sections of the church.

After giving the example of the contemplative life practised and taught by Jesus and his disciples, Horsfall calls for lives centred on Jesus, and lives which embrace stillness, silence, solitude, reflection, Bible meditation and contemplation.

In the concluding chapters, practical suggestions are offered on how a contemplative spirituality can be integrated into our busy lives and how "unforced rhythms of grace" can be practised in our daily living, allowing us to discover "true intimacy with God". I recommend the book as it is written in clear and practical terms, each chapter offering useful insights and deep wisdom, and as it concludes with helpful questions for reflection and action. Perhaps some of the chapters seem a bit repetitive, but this book would lend itself very well to being read in a church group, or to being used as a resource for a quiet day or retreat.

Reviewed by Leonora Jagessar-Visser't Hooft - a United Reformed Church minister at Trinity (St Albans), Harpenden and Bricket Wood URCs

From The Church Times - 18 May 2012

I confess that I approached Tony Horsfall's book with a cautious heart, but came away from it with a glad one.

The writer comes from an Evangelical background, which is not my own, and my prejudices got in the way. His aim is to widen the spirituality of the 'usual' Evangelical (if there is such a person), and introduce him or her to a kind of spirituality which for many good Christians would be entirely new. He does this with great sensitivity - and possibly a little deliberate cunning.

The first chapters describe issues that will be quite familiar to most Evangelical Christians, and probably form part of their daily devotions. But, slowly and gently, he leads his reader into what is probably, for most British Christians, new ground. He plays no tricks, but opens up radically different ways of prayer and listening to God. None of these is new to Christianity - indeed, many have ancient roots - but most have only relatively recently found their way into the daily devotions of today's Anglican (and probably Free Church) Christian lives. With Horsfall, prayer becomes listening and waiting rather than speaking and asking - as (he tells us) he has himself discovered.

Reviewed by Canon John Armson, former Precentor of Rochester Cathedral

From The Good Bookstall - 14 April 2012

Horsfall's message here is a prophetic and timely one. Experiencing intimacy with God in a busy life is a perennial if not cosmic wrestle. The world, the flesh and the devil all collaborate with our busyness and vulnerabilities, to minimise the truthfulness that comes from silence and solitude with our Saviour. Rhythms of Grace has a pulsing beat emanating from a personal exploration of contemplative spirituality. Evangelical and charismatic pathways fuse meaningfully in an experiential pursuit of God. This is full of insights, wisdom, reflection and signposts toward action and transformation.

Dense, definitive and delightful for the soul! This is a great title deserving of more than just shelf collection. Read and then re-read this gem of a book! This is a well-crafted and compelling invitation to walk in intimate grace with the risen Jesus Christ. This book in God's goodness could birth healing for many.

Reviewed by Johnny Douglas

I greatly enjoyed reading Rhythms of Grace. Tony Horsfall's message to those of us who are so busy that we hardly ever have time to sit still and simply be is a timely one. It also helps us to realise just how precious we are to God, and that though we may feel we don't measure up as Christians, God accepts and loves us as we are, and longs to deepen our relationship with him.

Susan Hibbins, Editor of the UK edition of The Upper Room

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841018423
  • Published: 17 February 2012
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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