Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book Review: Prayer

Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church. John Onwuchekwa. 2018. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: If you were to walk into most churches next Sunday, what would you find? You would hear music and singing. It might be loud or sparse, the songs new or old. But you know what you probably wouldn’t see a lot of? Or participate in? Prayer.

First sentence from chapter one: Well, here you are reading another book on prayer. Maybe the last one didn’t make you feel guilty enough, and you’re a glutton for punishment. What good is a book on prayer without an initial quote that surfaces your shortcomings as a pray-er? Without further ado, here it goes: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing!”

When was the last time you read a book on corporate prayer? I think this was my first. The Bible speaks many, many times of the importance of praying together as the people of God.

Onwuchkwa isn't saying that most churches are prayerless, lacking in prayers altogether. He is saying that churches could be--should be--doing a better job at praying together in church services and prayer meetings. We should, he writes, be praying bigger and better prayers that reflect how BIG our God is. Our tiny prayers reflect our puny God.
"Do you see the danger in too little prayer? Where prayer is present, it’s saying something—it’s speaking, shouting. It teaches the church that we really need the Lord. Where prayer is absent, it reinforces the assumption that we’re okay without him. Infrequent prayer teaches a church that God is needed only in special situations—under certain circumstances but not all."
What is prayer? What does biblical prayer look like? What should prayer in our churches look like? How do churches learn to pray better together?

This book does focus mainly on corporate prayer, on prayer in our churches and for our churches. But individuals can benefit from reading it as well. The book is practical and thought-provoking.

Our self-centeredness is like gravity; it pulls us down. Jesus is teaching us to aim higher. He wants our prayers to soar.
If we really believe Jesus is good enough to give something to us, we must believe he’s good enough to give it to others. Praying with plural pronouns as Jesus taught is one of the best ways to love our neighbors because, even when they’re out of sight, they should never be out of mind.
We run out of things to pray about when we pray vague prayers for vague people. It’s easy to cover our bases and leave God’s presence just as unimpressed and underwhelmed as when we came. But if our prayers begin to be filled with particular requests for particular people, we remove the dangers associated with silhouettes.
Your prayer lists essentially serve as price tags on current events and church concerns—assigning value or diminishing it. Therefore, don’t populate the prayer list in isolation. Populate the list with the concerns of all the flock.
Prayer is the link in the chain that connects God’s sovereignty to our responsibility. We can try to ease our discontentment by doing something, or we can do the right thing. Prayer is that right thing; it’s where we should start. Prayer—praising God for his attributes and calling out to him with his covenant promises in mind—is essential and necessary for creating a culture of evangelism.
All of the requests in the Lord’s Prayer will be unnecessary in heaven. God will have already provided everything we need. We’ll need only to spend the rest of eternity thanking him.
When Christ teaches us how to pray, he does so with a fractured world in mind.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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