A 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):
- I love Henri Nouwen‘s, The Way of the Heart, but a new believer might not value it as much.
- How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, (and this, from a Calvinist like me!)
- 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.
- Dr. Bright’s How to Pray by Faith has some strengths despite its weaknesses.
- [NEW] Living the Lord’s Prayer, David Timms. I’m reading this one right now and it looks really good. (8/27/14)
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, 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.
I have taken probably 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.