Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quick & Helpful Sources on Prayer

Very few books are too short, and most are too long! Maybe this is an over-exaggeration, but it tends to be the case with books dealing with the spiritual disciplines. Books on prayer ought to be only as long as is necessary to inform and motivate without being so long that there is no time left to pray. This makes sense to me!

Well, if you are looking for a simple, straightforward and motivational place to begin reading on the topic of prayer, I recommend chapters 7 (Discipline of Devotion) and 8 (Discipline of Prayer) of R. Kent Hughes' Disciplines of a Godly Man. Although this books is geared specifically toward men, these two chapters are equally applicable to women.

Why pray? Hughes answers this important question very simply offering two reasons:
  1. Because of what prayer does to our character.
  2. Because prayer bends our wills to God's will.
I found his explanation of the first point to be very helpful. He writes, "Prayer is like a time exposure to God.... The more we expose our lives to the white-hot sun of His righteous life..., the more His image will be burned into our character -- His love, His compassion, His truth, His integrity, His humility" (p. 83).

In chapter 8, Hughes identifies and briefly explains five aspects of prayer:
  1. In-spirited Prayer
  2. Continual Prayer
  3. Varied Prayer
  4. Persistent Prayer
  5. Intercessory Prayer
Another source that is quick, helpful and a favorite of mine, is Thomas Watson's The Godly Man's Picture. Section 12 identifies the godly man as a praying man (pp. 87-96).
A Christian is better after prayer. He has gained more strength over sin, as a man by exercise gets strength. The heart after prayer keeps a tincture of holiness, as the vessel favours and relishes the wine that is put into it. Having been with God on the mount, Moses' face shone. So, having been on the mount of prayer, our graces shine and our lives shine. This is the right kind of praying. The gift of prayer is ordinary, like culinary fire. But spiritual prayer is more rare and excellent, like elemental fire which comes from heaven. (93)
Finally, you may consider reading John Bunyan's treatise On Praying in the Spirit (found in volume one of The Works of John Bunyan. This has also been published in the Puritan Paperbacks series by the Banner of Truth: Prayer by John Bunyan.

Bunyan begins with What Prayer Is, and offers a classic definition:
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.