Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

04 November 2013

Two books about prayer

I have heard said that if you want to learn about prayer you should read a book about God, rather than a book about prayer.  So true.  Knowing the One to whom we pray is a great encouragement to pray.  But there are times when a specific boost comes in handy.  I've been in need of such a boost so I pulled the two books on prayer that have been waiting quietly in the wings and had a read.

A Praying Life by Paul Miller is good meeting point between a book about God and a book about prayer.  Paul Miller loves God.   And he loves praying.  He prays all the time.  About the big and the small.  He has complete trust that God hears and answers his prayers.  Paul Miller gets "pray without ceasing."

This book is an exhortation to pray.  Like Wendy said, this book makes you want to pray.   And like Jean said, you don't have to wait until you have things all sorted out to come before God because He wants you to come messy.

When Jesus describes the intimacy he wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship.  It's intimate and hints at eternity.  We don't think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with.  Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.

Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God.

I didn't agree with absolutely everything he had to say.  And personally I found it a bit too anecdotal - which is funny because used to love books with lots of stories woven into them...  But even so I would have no hesitation in sharing this book with others.  Miller takes the mystery out of prayer (but not the wonder of it) and provides warm encouragement to get on with it, without fear.  If you have stopped praying or never really got started, if you are stuck in a rut or want to up the ante, this book will spur you on. 

The second book I read is called Praying by JI Packer and Carolyn Nystrom.  I've had this one for six years, mostly unread, having had several attempts at starting it.  Others seem to have had that experience with this book as well.    Which I think has much to do with JI Packer's style of writing.  It's deep and dense.  You have to read it slowly.  In fact I read a review of this book that started, "This book is SO good that I had to take six months to read it."

This book is not a quick fix book.  If you need a quick prayer-pick-me-up then this isn't the book for you.  The authors say as much at the beginning - that "non-practitioners" of prayer will be quickly left behind.  But if you want to take deeper look into the subject of prayer - and the One to whom we pray - then this is a great volume.

I didn't get the best out of this book.  I mostly read it late at night and the chapters are long - however the chapters are divided into shorter sections.  A better way to read it, as the reviewer said, would be to take your time.  A bit like Knowing God.  The next time I read it - and I will read it again so I can't say better than that - I will read it not chapter at a time, but smaller section at a time and go through it slowly, slowly over a longer period of time.  There is a great set of study questions at the end of the book as well - and taking it more slowly, I would do the studies as well, which include sections on understanding what has been said, studying the Bible and deep praying - not just a quick prayer tacked on at the end for sake of completeness. 

It's certainly not the easiest book I've read all year, but it's a worthwhile read.  And there are lots of quotes from the puritans and from CS Lewis, so that may spark an interest for at least one fellow blogger.

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