Posts Tagged ‘Prayer Books’
Let me briefly give you some pointers to developing a stronger prayer life. These points have been points that I myself have put into practice in my own prayer life. No doubt we all know that God wants us to pray (Jeremiah 33:3). Jesus said that His disciples would be a people of prayer (Matthew 6:5). It was the prayer life of Jesus (and not His teaching or His miracles) that the disciples wanted to learn about the most (Luke 11:1). Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) and he told the disciples in Colosse to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV). Revelation 5:8 records that the prayers of the saints rise up before the throne of God. How vital then prayer is to the disciple!
How can we then strengthen our prayer lives? Here are some quick points.
1. Meditate on “Prayer” Scriptures.
Meditating upon the Word of God is so important (Psalm 1:1-3). The Word of God is our delight (Psalm 119:162). Jesus said that we were to abide in His teachings (which is His Word) to be His faithful disciples (John 8:31-32; cf. Matthew 7:24-27). The Word of God is the only weapon the disciple is given to combat Satan and the lies of the world (Ephesians 6:17). We are to renew our minds which can only occur in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2).
I advise taking the “prayer” Scriptures and writing them down where you can read and re-read them to meditate upon them. Passages such as 1 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 6:5-13; 7:7-11; 21:22; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 18:1-8; John 14:13-14; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2; etc. I would urge you to study all the major passages on prayer. A good book on this is the book, The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer.
2. Study the Lives of Great Intercessors.
Study the lives of great prayer warriors such as John Hyde, David Brainerd, Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, Rees Howells, David Livingstone, John Wesley, Martin Luther, and many more. John Bunyan was a great man of prayer. William and Catherine Booth, founds of the Salvation Army, were great intercessors. Read and study their lives and imitate their faith in God (Hebrews 13:7).
3. Read Books on Prayer.
A few books that I would highly recommend would be Why Revival Tarries? by Leonard Ravenhill, The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Prayer by John Bunyan, A Method of Prayer by Matthew Henry, and The Path of Prayer by Samuel Chadwick.
4. Pray With Other Intercessors.
Find some men of God (if you’re a man or find women if you’re a woman) who seek God earnestly and pray with them. Lay aside your Arminianism or your Calvinism to seek God with your brethren. As long as we are orthodox in our theology over the major issues, seek God with such folks. There is so much to learn from praying with others. I first learned how to pray by praying with some older saints who are now with Jesus. They taught me how to tarry in God’s presence, how to seek God earnestly for who He is not what we can get from Him, to learn to view prayer not as merely asking for things but to know God and love on Him in worship. 1 Timothy 2:8 should guide us here.
To read on prayer or study Scripture on prayer or to meditate on prayer is not the same as praying. Prayer must be practiced. To merely talk about prayer is not the same as praying. I know of churches that faithfully preach the Word of God and can expound on prayer but if they just talk about prayer, what is the point? Prayer must be “worked” out. Prayer must be something that we don’t just study but earnestly do (James 5:16-18). The key difference between us and the early Church is not so much theology but its practice (Acts 2:42-47). Prayer is important and powerfully because of who we are seeking, the sovereign God of the universe. Let us pray!
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.