Book Review: Prayer

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

My Rating – Must Read

Level – moderate, 250+ pages before appendixes and notes

Summary
It is a book about prayer, that is pretty clear from the title. There is a little bit of almost everything, prayer as it is in the Bible, a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, notes from people in church history, differing prayers styles/times, and ways of doing prayer. Overall it is a good survey of most things related to prayer. The book is broken into five parts – Desiring Prayer, Understanding Prayer, Learning Prayer, Deepening Prayer, and Doing Prayer – with a few chapters per part, for a total of 15 chapters.

My Thoughts
I’ve read a number of book on prayer recently for a sermon series, and as someone who occasionally writes, it is almost annoying the Keller once again has written the best book on a topic. The book is almost academic at some points, particularly the exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, while still remaining pastoral and accessible to most readers. I actually read only part of the book a year or so ago when I was studying the Sermon on Mount and heard his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer was one of the best, then finished this year while studying prayer.

There is a good bit of discussion from people throughout church history (Augustine, Calvin, Luther) regarding prayer. I particularly enjoyed his ‘doing prayer’. This was the strength of the book to me. I’ve read many of the other commentators, and I know that/why we should pray, but I’ve always struggled with the how and especially with the habit of prayer. If that is you, the book is worth it just for that section and the resources in the back.

The only weakness in the book is that Keller doesn’t really discuss unanswered prayers. Or at least, he doesn’t do it well. He isn’t ready to say that God doesn’t answer prayers sometimes. That’s a huge theological issue and maybe outside the scope of what he wanted to do, or just knows the answer is both simple and complex. Check out Yancey for more on unanswered prayer. Keller kind of hedges bye saying the answer can be yes and no. He gives the example of a girlfriend in college that broke up with him and him praying that it wouldn’t happen. He says the answer was no, as the girl did break up with him, but that the answer was yes because he eventually married his wife. I see what he is saying, and I appreciate what his view, however, this isn’t always the case. Some people may never be married; additionally, people die young from cancer, addicts can’t kick their addiction, etc.

It is a hard topic, so I don’t mind that he failed, because what he does cover is covered so well. As I said earlier, the practice of prayer is handled extensively and is reason enough to get the book. If you are just looking into prayer as an intro, or your prayer life is stuck, or you are looking to go deeper in your understanding of prayer, this book is a must read.

Book Review: Prayer – Does it Make Any Difference?

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy read, moderate length

Summary
The title pretty much says it all. The book is about prayer, what is it, what do we do with it, why, and what’s the point? The subtitle isn’t necessarily answered, other than to say, maybe – for us and for God – but also, maybe not. The book is broken into five parts, Keeping Company with God, Unraveling the Mysteries, The Language of Prayer, Prayer Dilemmas, and The Practice of Prayer. Each part is broken down into three to six subparts, for 22 chapters in all.

My Thoughts
I’ve not read a book by Yancey before. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing styles. As a writer and not a pastor, this book doesn’t give you theological insights or pastoral guidance like you might find in Keller, but you get something maybe more personal. Most chapters are fairly short and are usually broken down even further, so you get something almost like blog-post type series of his personal thoughts. Of course, there are many good quotes and insights form other author and theologians, but I think the goal is something more personal. He lays out his struggles, or writes about stories he has heard from others. Yancey is afraid to honestly question the point of prayer.

The strength of the book comes with the first chapter and especially the fourth. In the former, you get the reason for prayer as our main form of communication with God, in the latter, the problems and struggle people face. I was a little disappointed with final chapter as he doesn’t really delve into historical guidelines or lay out any practical steps; though in his defense, I don’t think that was his point. Overall, it is a great personal book on prayer and he points out what many people think and struggle with, something that is all too absent in Christian writing. It probably isn’t the best book if you are seeking a practice of prayer, but if you are just starting to study prayer, it is definitely worth putting on your list.