Christian Prayer for Today

The cover of this book has an attractive picture of a rowing boat tied up at a riverbank but without any oars visible. Since oars are the means of guiding the boat safely across the water, this might be a very fitting illustration of the place of prayer in the Christian life (and all too frequent lack of it) as the principle means we learn to walk with God along the river of life.

The author’s background is Presbyterian, hence the frequent quotes from Calvin, Karl Barth and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. No harm in that, of course, for the understanding and practice of prayer far transcends theological differences of partisanship, and the subject of prayer is approached in the book from a wide perspective.

Its main thesis is that prayer is “participation in God” and reflects His triune nature inasmuch as He is not only the Father, to whom we all pray, but also the Word (Jesus), who is the source of the words we use in prayer, especially those from the Psalms, and the Holy Spirit who actually prays with us “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26 Berkeley). This involvement of the divine Trinity in prayer is a safeguard against tendencies to speech making and undue subjectivism in our praying and is a very

vital concept to hold on to at such times.

One might for that reason look a trifle askance at the idea of drawing inspiration from the prayer practices of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus (p37) and even seeing benefit in the confessional (p62). Even allowing for James 5:16 and the example of the early Methodist class meetings, the perceived benefit of hearing “the promise of forgiveness... spoken by another believer” does go against the grain of direct dealing with the Lord by faith which is the bedrock of evangelical prayer. One also feels it might have been better to talk about ‘believers’ in general and thus use ‘their’ in referring to them, rather than having a believer referred to as ‘she’ where no gender distinction arises.

Carping aside, however, this is a worthwhile book containing much practical

teaching on the ‘how, when and where’ of prayer which can only be helpful in a

sometimes difficult but very vital part of Christian discipleship. It was to this reviewer