Modern Books on Prayer
I am not a big fan of modern books on prayer. I prefer to read E.M. Bounds on prayer or Andrew Murray or A.W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill or Samuel Chadwick than to read many modern books on prayer. It seems you get two types of modern books when it comes to prayer. The first is the “exegetical” approach to prayer. I appreciate this more than the latter but I think many of us know many verses of Scripture on prayer but we just don’t pray. We can quote the Lord’s teaching on prayer in Matthew 9:9-13 but we don’t follow His example nor His outline for prayer.
The second group bothers me the most. Many of the modern books on prayer from The Prayer of Jabez to Sun Stand Still offer nothing new on prayer. If anything they try to make prayer all about us and not much about God. Oh God is here and there but He is there for a reason: you! God wants to answer your prayers so that you can be blessed in this life. Few take the first approach and go very deep into the Scriptures on prayer (though they will proof-text their books) and most make you remember more about the author or the author’s scheme then about God or His kingdom. The countless stories that fill modern books on prayer are given, they say, to show us the author’s faith but all we remember are the authors. The books are focused on the authors more so than on the Lord in my opinion. Typical of the modern clergy-laity church where the pastor is the prophet, priest, and king of the house.
That’s why I never recommend modern books on prayer. A few are good such as Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire though this book has a good many personal illustrations in it with some Scriptural teachings. Cymbala’s theology is much sounder than the books listed above. At least Cymbala is not so much focused on prayer pleasing yourself.
Prayer is not about you. Prayer is to be focused on pleasing God. When Jesus said in John 14:13 that we could ask anything in His name, He wasn’t meaning that we could pray for what our covetous desires. John 14:14 makes it clear that the reason for John 14:13 is because of the glory of God. God answers prayer because of His glory and for His honor. Every answered prayer is in accordance with God being exalted. Even healings are done for the glory of God (John 9). The Apostles were clear in the book of Acts that they focused the attention on the Lord and not upon themselves. Modern preachers would not do well in the book of Acts. Modern preachers would never be able to utter the words of Acts 3:12 or Acts 14:14-15. Nor would they be able to utter the words of Acts 26:20-21. Of course, nor would they be able to declare James 5:16-18 when it comes to prayer other than stories that they tell about themselves.
Prayer is all about the glory of God. Prayer is not about “your audacious faith” but the honor of God. Prayer is not about pleasing your pleasures. It is about Jesus and His kingdom (James 4:2-4). Why would God want you to pray a prayer that would violate 1 John 2:15-17? He does not. He is holy and righteous and He will answer prayers that exalt Him as God. God does still answer prayers but He answers them so that His name is praised (1 John 5:14-15). By the way, prayer is not powerful. Only God is. Prayer is powerful because God answers prayer that glorifies His name.
Let me end with this, do you pray as Jesus prayed in John 17? In John 17 Jesus prayed to the glory of God. Jesus begins His prayer with a focus on glorifying God (John 17:1-5). Jesus’ entire focus in His prayer in John 17 is upon the glory of God. Go through John 17 and notice how many times Jesus says “you” and “Father.” Even when praying for the Church in John 17:20-26 His focus is completely upon the glory of God. He wants God the Father to give them unity so that God may be glorified. You will not find the narcissism in Jesus’ praying that you’ll find in many modern books on prayer.
So if you want to study prayer then I encourage you to read the older works on prayer such as The Valley of Vision or the works of E.M. Bounds on prayer. The best book I have ever read on prayer are the works of Leonard Ravenhill and especially his book, Why Revival Tarries? Dead faithful men are faithful men still.