If you are someone who prays, you may find, as I do, that prayer is not easy.
If you are someone who reads, you may find, as I do that my gut reaction when faced with something difficult is to read a book about it.
So as someone who likes reading and tries to pray, I’ve resorted in the past to a number of books to help me. Andrew Case’s recently published ‘trilogy’ on prayer and Stormie O’Martian’s ‘Power of a praying husband/wife/parent’ series are worth comparing having a similar audience in mind but approaching the subject rather differently. Having benefitted from the help of Case and O’Martian (I need a lot of help) I can say that there are good reasons and seasons for using both, if used discerningly.
Somewhere along the line I got it into my head that praying, I mean really praying, means using my own words; that uttering the words of another is somehow a form of pious plagiarism. I’ve since realised that where others have served the church by writing down their prayers (the Pslamist included) then it is churlish and proud to toss them aside and battle on alone.
Andrew Case has written three books of biblical prayers that provide a rich and God-honouring resource for husbands, wives and parents as follows:
Water of the Word – Intercession for Her
Prayers of An Excellent Wife – Intercession for Him
Setting Their Hope in God – Biblical Intercession for Your Children
The prayers are saturated with scripture and focus on the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. The reader is challenged to fix his attention on his spiritual welfare rather than just the physical and material. I want to pray that my son gets into the B team for cricket. Case wants us to pray that our children prize knowing Jesus above all that the world has to offer. As such, these books keep us mindful of what really matters. Case gets straight to the point. Every page is a prayer except for the occasional quotation at the bottom of the page from a saint of old.
Here is a taster from his book of prayers for children:
O Father of my dearest Lord Jesus,
May my children hate the double-minded, but love Your law. Be their hiding place, and their shield; make them hope in Your word. Cause evildoers to depart from them, that they may keep the commandments of their God…
You get the idea. Sadly, you get the same idea in each book as, except for the change in pronouns, the content of the books is almost identical.
Let’s take a look at Stormie O’Martian’s prayers for children by way of comparison. In her chapter on Developing a Hunger for the Things of God, she writes:
I pray that (he/she) will always desire to be an active member of a Christian church that is alive to the truth of Your Word and the power of Holy Spirit-led worship, prayer and teaching. As (he/she) learns to read Your Word, write Your law in (his/her) mind and on (his/her) heart so that (he/she) always walks with a confident assurance of the righteousness of Your commands…
The difference appears to be mainly one of language. However, where Case consistently bases his prayers on scripture, O’Martian’s prayers embrace all aspects of life and living. Case does not categorise his prayers but supplies a list of biblical references in an Appendix along with an extensive reading list. O’Martian’s chapters are specifically focused on areas such as work, purpose, trials, integrity, priorities and health.
As well as a biblically based prayer for each chapter, followed by a list of ‘Power Tools’ (verses from the bible) she also offers us her own insights on the given topic with anecdotes from her life which, though interesting, take up rather a lot of reading time before you get around to the prayer itself.
The danger with both authors is that we use them unthinkingly. I have caught myself reading a page of text and even praying it aloud whilst thinking about something completely unrelated and then ticking off the page in a dangerously legalistic mood of relief. This is not praying. This is awful! As springboards for prayer the books are helpful. As alternatives to it, they are not.
Using prayer books is a bit like addressing an audience. If I am too reliant on my script I am falling to engage my listeners. If I am just reading out the prayers might I be in danger of ignoring God?