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Book Review – When You Pray

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When I was a child my parents explained to me how important it is to make time every day for reading the Bible and praying. Wanting to please them, and knowing it was the right thing to do, I began to have a brief period of devotions each day before bed. I do not remember a whole lot about how I conducted these devotions, but I do remember struggling with whether or not it was acceptable to pray the Lord’s Prayer instead of praying a personal prayer. Though it is given by Jesus as a model of prayer, for some reason it seemed to me to be a lazy option. When I was tired and worn out after a long day of saving the world or teasing my sisters, I’d often collapse into bed, pray the Lord’s Prayer, and fall asleep. In so doing I treated the Lord’s Prayer as a magic prayer that contains power simply because it comes directly from Scripture. I put little of my heart and little of my mind into the prayer.

Of course there is nothing wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer. While it may serve primarily as a model of prayer, it is a wonderfully profound, yet simple prayer and one we would all do well to study and meditate upon. When You Pray by Philip Ryken is a helpful tool for doing just this (Note: the book was published in 2000 by Crossway under the same title. It has been reissued in 2006 by P&R Publishing Company). It is “a practical exposition of the Lord’s Prayer from Scripture. The more we pray, the more deeply we are drawn into communion with God. And the more we study the Lord’s Prayer, the better we are able to pray. So perhaps an exposition such as this one can help us draw closer to our heavenly Father.”

The book begins with three chapters dealing with how we are to pray. Ryken teaches first how to pray like a hypocrite, then how to preach like an orphan, and finally how to pray like God’s own dear child. Ten chapters follow, each of which discusses one of the phrases or petitions of the Prayer, beginning of course with “Our Father in Heaven and closing with “The Power and the Glory.” Ryken shows how this prayer can be prayed as-is, but also how it ought to model our other prayers. It is easy to read and simple to digest and with fairly short chapters it is ideally suited for use with personal devotions or for group study (and, in fact, there are useful study questions at the end of each of the chapters).

When You Pray is the kind of book that may slip by almost unnoticed, and this is a shame, for it is an excellent resource. It is one that is well worth reading and will doubtless prove a valuable addition to any library. I enjoyed it a great deal and am glad to recommend it to you.


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