Book Reviews: Growing in Prayer + A Praying Life

At the recent MTS Leaders’ Training Day, Carmel Vincent, MTS Events Coordinator, and Josh Ward, 2nd Year MTS Apprentice, were each tasked with reviewing a book they would recommend on prayer.

Josh Ward – Growing in Prayer, Stephen Shead

“The book certainly teaches its readers biblical truth concerning prayer, unpacking beautiful and deep theological truths about who God is and what that means for us in prayer and yet it’s fantastic in the way it avoids the trap of just being head knowledge. The book helpfully, facilitates the readers to grow in their own daily prayer life.

The book is structured as a 4-week series. 28 short daily reflections on prayer across 4 weeks. At various points in each short reflection, it will give you time to stop & pray as you engage with the scriptures. It’s highly interactive allowing you room to write down any further ideas and questions as you read and pray.  

 The goal of this resource is really to challenge and grow daily prayer life over the 28 days. To assist God’s people to be praying more regularly, deeply and spontaneously.

Across the 28 days, I’ve also found it incredibly helpful to be reminded to depend on him daily. In the book Shead draws out the fact that ‘In Jesus’ world, the average worker was only able to buy food for the next day. Jesus’ biggest concern for them was not that they build a savings buffer, it was that they trust completely in God for each day’s bread.

As I’ve read the reflections each day and spent time in prayer, it has reminded me that I’m helpless, weak, pitiful and in need. It’s been particularly helpful in the context of being freed up for full time ministry; working hard at preaching, one to one’s and small groups day in day out… I need to check in on my own heart. It’s forced me to ask myself the question – who am I trusting, who am I depending on?

If you want some practical help or encouragement to pray – grab this book. It’s a wonderful resource to assist us in playing our part in God’s great redemptive work as we pray His will be done.”

Josh concludes with a quote from the book, “It seems God has so ordered life and the world that our praying is a vital part of the redemptive plan for individuals & the entire universe.”

Purchase Growing in Prayer by Stephen Shead from Matthias Media here.

Carmel Vincent – A Praying Life, Paul E. Miller

Carmel quotes from the book, “Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the centre is like making conversation the centre of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the centre of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the centre.” 

Carmel reflects, “I’d been focusing on the windshield. The rest of this book is devoted to help us learn how to go on this journey of a lifetime and develop a meaningful prayer life, an intimate relationship with God… Getting to know Him, enjoy Him, integrating your life with His, submitting to and trusting Him with real hope.

Miller proceeds to divide the book into five sections…

  1. Learning to Pray Like a Child

Relate to God like a child… Come as you are… Messy… Come with your wobbly, unsteady prayers. Ask, believe, trust like a child does with their parents.

  1. Learning to Trust Again

Miller now goes deeper and looks at some adult habits that can dull our hearts to prayer and keep us from being drawn into life with God. Eg cynicism… We’re weary, we’re suffering, we’re doubting. He calls it “defeated weariness”. But by repenting, having a spirit of thankfulness, and by developing an eye for Jesus’ presence in our day to day life, we can learn to trust again, to orient our heart to Jesus.

  1. Learning to Ask Your Father

Miller now examines barriers in our hearts to asking God about things or for things that sometimes we’re not even aware of. Do we live like we really believe Jesus’ extravagant promises about prayer when we ask in His name?

  1. Living in Your Father’s Story…

This is where Miller’s been leading us and where the book really comes together. When we pray we become aware of and enter into the story God is weaving into our lives. It may not be the story we’d have planned for ourselves, but God wants to shape us in the image of His Son, as much as he wants to answer our prayers. We live in the Father’s story. The Gospel story and the end of that story is hope.

  1. Praying in Real Life 

This section Introduces two tools that have helped Miller himself in prayer – prayer cards and journaling.

Prayer Cards – A prayer card is a non-complicated, actual note card where you start writing down things that you’re asking of the Lord so that you can remember. It’s a tool that is helpful for keeping track of what you’re asking the Lord to do.

Journalling – Keeping a prayer journal we can reflect on what God is doing, on the patterns of our Father’s care, and of our place in the story God is weaving in our lives.

Miller writes in a way that is personable using his own life experiences and stories as illustrations, so it’s easy to read, it’s relatable, and it often feels like a chat with a friend. You get to know his family and his life. But like a good friend, he also speaks truth, and there were parts where I felt challenged, and humbled as he exposed things in my own heart that I wasn’t aware of or that I downplayed. I mean I pray, and I believe God is in control, but so much of my life is lived like I’m the one in control!”

Purchase A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller from The Wandering Bookseller here.