Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

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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Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Next Right Thing - Book Review

Decision fatigue.  Who hasn't felt it?  Should I move or should I stay?  Is it the right time to start my own business?  Can I afford to take a leap of faith (or not to)?  Is it too risky to quit my job to write the book that is begging to be written?  Will I be able to come up with the money to achieve my dream?

Given that the typical adult is said to make about 35,000 decisions per day, we should be tired!  How can we know the right thing to do?  What if our decision options appear to be equally good?  Or, what if we have to decide between two equally bad choices?

In Emily P. Freeman's new book, The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, we are provided with the kind of prompts, reflections, and reassurances that take much of the stress out of our daily decision wrangling.  For those of us who have always sweated it out like there is that one best decision we must find before acting, Freeman's approach to breaking it down and doing the one next right thing is a huge relief.

This is a book that works well as part of an ongoing reflective practice.  Instead of a decision list of pros and cons, we learn to approach things more organically.  We are reminded that we are making a life and that we learn to make good decisions by actually practicing making decisions.  And, gasp, not every decision has to be perfect.  Why, we can even offer ourselves grace for having made a bad decision in the past.

Freeman shares stories about her own experiences making both major and minor decisions.  Each chapter provides an example, which then leads to a reflective exercise, and finally offers up a prayer.  Though written from a Christian perspective, there is a universal benefit to approaching life one next right thing at a time.

What kind of impact can reading a book like this have in a life?  Well, for one thing, instead of resenting all of the decisions pressing down on me today, I feel gratitude that I have so many choices.  I think of all of the individuals in the world who live in regimes where nearly all of the decisions are made for them.  It is a privilege, and blessing, to be able to choose—to have free will.

Another benefit of this read for me was the focus on having an uncluttered soul.  I am providing my soul with more space to breathe these days.  Without this space, it is almost impossible to experience the serenity of a life built one right thing at a time.  Right things need breathing room.  When we pause to oxygenate our souls, we can more easily fall into a peaceful rhythm where right things become a natural way of being.

We can live a life where unmade decisions hold all of the power, or we can choose to harness that power for good.  For too long I allowed difficult decisions to hold a certain tyrannical force over my days.  They drained the energy I could have been using in creative, more fulfilling ways.  For anyone facing important decisions, or wanting to breathe more easily when choosing among the competing priorities of the day, reading The Next Right Thing may just provide the needed soul space where peace can lead the way.









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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