If you were to ask me what were the most influential books on prayer I have ever read, I would without doubt recommend two.
The first I read as a student is People in Prayer by John White. It was in some ways a very simple book that simply took a passage from the life of a major Biblical character and examined the lessons we could learn from their prayers, and yet as a relatively young Christian I found it both deeply challenging and moving. So much teaching on prayer is not in fact rooted in the word of God and starts with our own experience or our own personal image of God. But if the Bible is God’s word to us, then we need to listen to what the Bible teaches us about prayer. If we want to know how to do serious business with the God of the Old and the New Testament, then there is no better way of doing this than looking at the men and women recorded within its pages who did just that.
And on a similar vein, many years later I was privileged to read A Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson. This book opened my eyes to the practical relevance of the great prayers of the apostle Paul and explored why there is so often a gulf between the type of prayers that we so often offer and the type of prayers we find in Paul’s epistles. It is a passionate, wise plea to the church for a disciplined prayer life that is centred on knowing God better and not merely asking to receive His blessings. Because in the author’s view whatever else the church needs, it needs a fresh vision and fresh desire for God.
However even as I make these recommendation, I realise that, sadly, many Christians have got out of the habit of reading books, of savouring a chapter, or even just a couple of paragraphs, day by day, and allowing the Holy Spirit to inform their heart and minds. Yes, I realise that in our age of instant, bitesize communication reading books is almost becoming something old-fashioned and we find it hard to make the time to sit down and concentrate. Yet when there is so much good material available that can help us grow in our relationship with God, surely it is worth making the investment in learning from the wisdom of others? Certainly I know how much these two books impacted my life, and the lessons learnt continue to impact my ministry.