Henri Nouwen, Jesus and Teaching People to Pray

Boy and His Dog PrayingA valued friend contacted me on Facebook™ and wanted to know if I could recommend a book/booklet to help people learn how to pray. That’s a perennial problem—helping new believers and many times, older believers, to pray well, to pray biblically, to pray frequently, to pray with confidence and boldness, to pray about everything, to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything to pray about everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

So what did I recommend?

I recommended some books but only half-heartedly. Here’s what I said:

Depends on the maturity of the person(s):

  1. I love Henri Nouwen‘s, The Way of the Heart, but a new believer might not value it as much.
  2. How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, (and this, from a Calvinist like me!)
  3. Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCWonline.org) has a great little two page “An Intimate Hour with God” that I like to use on personal prayer retreats.
  4. Dr. Bright’s How to Pray by Faith has some strengths despite its weaknesses.
  5. Living the Lord’s Prayer, David Timms. I’m reading this one right now and it looks really good. (8/27/14)
  6. {NEW} My friend Terry Ivy has a book on prayer that is very good. Praying in the Spirit.
  7. {NEW} Bill Simpson’s book, How to Ask God: for What He Wants to Give You has some good things to contemplate and is very practical.

prayer (1)
Bottom line though is that books and pamphlets and outlines can only go so far.

You learn to pray by praying and hearing others who know how to pray.

Some of you will remember the old Intermediate LTC [Leadership Training Class with Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru] outline on prayer? Here is one of the exercises.

    • Get a concordance: Look up “pray”, “prayed”, “praying”, “prays” in Luke’s gospel.
    • Lay out the interrogatives (who, what, when, where, why, with whom, how) on the left side.
    • Lay out the passages across the top of the page creating a grid of columns.
    • Answer as many of the interrogative questions from the context of each passage as you can.

I have taken close to 100 men through this process over the years. EVERY time, by the time we get to chapter 11, they are asking exactly what the disciples asked Jesus. “Lord, would you teach us to pray?”

They became teachable by watching him. He taught them only when they were teachable. People will learn how to pray when they are close enough, frequently enough, to someone who knows how to pray and prays frequently around them.

That’s the challenge for us. We need to find more “with me” time with the men and women we want to influence (Cf. Mark 3:13-14). We have to “be” prayers in front of them (NOT AS A SHOW) but as actual prayers (long a).  Older men and older women need to invite younger men and younger women into their lives and pray with them.

Tomorrow I will post about a happy surprise that resulted in my friend’s request.

How Teaching Men to Pray May be the Secret to Effective Disciple-Making
Delusions and Twelve Miles of Sorrowful Joy

6 thoughts on “Henri Nouwen, Jesus and Teaching People to Pray

  1. i went to your link on christian communicators for the article on prayer you mentioned, and could not find it, so i did a search of that sight for prayer, and found 133 artilces on prayer, but still not sure which one you meant?
    can you help me find the article?


  2. Brought over from Facebook

    David Burkhardt
    Think EM Bounds are best!! Isn’t Nouwen a universalist RC mystic? Archie Parrish also has very good prayer resources!!

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    E.M. Bounds is great. Highly recommend.
    Nouwen? Yes to RC, Yes to mystic (in many ways), Yes, on the universalist in some ways. His is a nuanced RC universalism that is troubling but not in a way that completely mutes his value on this particular topic.


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