Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review of the Best Two Books on Prayer I've Ever Read

Review of the Best Two Books on Prayer I've Ever Read
Scan of my two books. Image created on PicMonkey


I'll Never Get Rid of These Two Books on Prayer

I bought these books back when they were published in the early 1970s. I began working at Logos Bookstore in Westwood in 1972, and as long as I worked there I could borrow and read anything on their shelves any time I wanted to.

We had three cases of books on Christian devotional and prayer life. I must have read half of what was in those cases during my nine years at Logos. Of all those books I read, these are the two books I bought about prayer. They are the keepers.

Hallesby Makes It Simple


I recently started rereading Hallesby's book. It's taken me two weeks to get through the first chapter -- 34 small pages. Why? Because every sentence is packed with important thoughts to ponder.  The chapter attempts to define what prayer actually is. Hallesby says, "Prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts."

Photo © B. Radisavljevic. Quote added.


If you're as old as I am, approaching my eighties, and have been a Christian for as long as I've been, since I was twelve, you've probably had a lot of teaching about prayer. You've heard why you should pray, how you should pray, when you should pray, and with what attitude. You've probably heard what topics you should pray about and in what order. You've probably heard you need to pray in faith with no doubting in order for God to answer your prayer.

If you're a bit like me, you've sometimes started to pray and gotten intimidated by all you've heard. Sometimes I get so tripped up by all those details and how-tos I can hardly pray at all. I feel quite helpless as I mentally check the details off my mental list. After all, I want to make sure I'm praying in a way that God will hear and answer.

Hallesby addresses my condition in his first chapter. He says helplessness is our best prayer,  and that the call of the helpless heart to the heart of God is more effective than any words we can utter. He compares our helpless condition before God to that of the helpless child dependent on his mother's care. A tiny infant cannot tell you what he wants and needs. He just cries. And a mother's heart is always tuned to hear those cries and help.

The prayer of an infant is his cry to his loving parent.
Created on Get Stencil from public domain image it provided. I added the quote.

I'm still rereading the  rest of the book but it does address some of the difficulties people encounter in prayer, prayer as work, what it means to wrestle in prayer, misuses of prayer, forms of prayer, and more. The book is practical and very readable. I believe this is the first book anyone wanting to develop a serious prayer life should read on the subject. Find reasonably priced used copies at Biblio, a site for independent booksellers. This link to one copy will also lead you to the others.  You can find a newer expanded edition for Kindle on Amazon.


The Hidden Life of Prayer by D.M. M'ntyre (or McIntrye)


If you want to go beyond what you've learned from Hallesby, it may be time to pick up The Hidden Life of Prayer. The author ministered in England and Scotland for over fifty years before entering Heaven in 1938. He led a life of prayer and in his book he often quoted other prayer warriors. These quotes are often in the footnotes, which I'm often prone to skip. But in this book you mustn't skip them or you will miss a lot of the treasure.

What some people today may find difficult about the book is the language the ideas are dressed in. The style and vocabulary may intimidate some of today's readers, especially if they are young. Academics may be more comfortable with it. But those who are willing to make the effort will find it rewarding.


It's full of quotes from historic Christian figures who accomplished much in their service for Christ. One quote I found on page 26 was from a book, Waiting on God, by Dr. A.B. Davidson. I'd like to share it will you.

Quote on what it means to wait on God in prayer
Image created on Get Stencil App with public domain photo it supplied. I added the text.


"To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect -- to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if He does not come we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that He will not come."
Contrast M'intyre's definition of prayer below with the one I shared near the beginning of this post from Hallesby:

"Prayer is said to be the gathering up of all the faculties in an ardour of reverence, and love, and praise. As one clear strain may succeed in reducing to harmony a number of mutually-discordant voices, so the regnant impulses of the spiritual nature unite the heart to fear the name of the Lord."  [sic]
 To find treasure, we often have to dig deep. We have to be willing to exercise our minds. This is not a book one skims like a blog post. But if you are at the right stage of your prayer life and your desire to have it mature even more is great, this may be the next book on prayer you should read. Its 94 pages are packed with spiritual nutrients. Like the Hallesby book, it is easily found used at a price anyone can afford. Find it  at Biblio or at Amazon.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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10 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing these two books on prayer, Barbara. I am a collector of quotes (meaningful to me when I've read them), so these spiritual quotes are well worth pursuing in your recommended books.

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    1. I also like quotes that haven't yet made it to the quote sites. I love putting them on photos and sharing them. Books are wonderful sources. The problem is that with the Hallesby book I wanted to share almost every sentence I read.

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  2. Prayer is such a large part of my life that I pray without even thinking about it or questioning how dense I probably sound to God. I've known my whole adult life that patience is a requirement in prayer. One of my prayers took over 25 years to be answered and others I am still waiting. Part of praying for me is knowing that I can't change certain things and I am releasing them to the only One who can. I have no doubt that I would cherish the teaching, encouraging, and reassuring words in these books.

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  3. Sounds like you may not need these. I wanted to introduce these old classics to those who are half my age. Publishers don't advertise them anymore. There isn't much publicity. All that is going to newer books. I confess I haven't read the newer books, but I believe from my experience on other Christian topics that books by today's Christian "celebrities" which often lack depth have buried some of the old treasures. Time to tell people about them.

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  4. Oh Barbara, how lovely to see two books on prayer that come so highly recommended. I think many people today have forgotten what it is to "pray". They are too busy, but one day they will come to realize something in their lives is missing....then I hope they find your review! Thank you!

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    1. I'm sure prayer is the last thing on many people's list of things to do. In fact it doesn't get get on the lists of most people today. That may be why the world is in such sorry shape.

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  5. Thank you for the introduction to these books. I do have a friend who would enjoy the book by Hallesby, I'm sure. Will have to make a note of it. Connection to each other, prayer, kindness, inner-peace, forgiveness, living life to serve in whatever way we can (big or small) - these are the things that connect to my soul. Keeping a light soul, and open heart, this is what I try to maintain as much as possible in this human life we all share. Oh, love that quote at the beginning by Hallesby. Lovely. Also, I do love John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" - There's a calmness in those words. Also, I work hard to not be judgmental - praying for that skill - have mastered it to a point with most things in life - but I fail sometimes too. Then get up and try again. I'm not sure where it comes from (well maybe we know lol) but I feel a cosmic connection beyond this life, always have. I'm grateful for that feeling. As the storms brew I have the internal gift of standing calm during them. My heart feels deeply for everyone on this planet. I'll cry for people I don't know, people I know. Anyway, it's all good.

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    1. That verse from John is also one I rely on in times of turmoil. Jesus spoke those words as he was about to face the cross, right before he left to pour out his soul in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet he had peace to give to his followers. The world can't give that kind of peace.

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  6. I'm working on being prayerful every moment of each day. Prayer is as essential as breathing. I love that an effective prayer can be as simple as crying out. I love that God knows what I am going to prayer before I even pray it. The fact that these books still touch your soul and spirit so profoundly tells me that they are really something special.

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    1. A prayerful attitude keeps our connection with God open and helps us see things as they really are. We get a better idea of God's perspective on what we face in life. We learn to see others more through his eyes. These books have been influential in my life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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