Monday, August 8

Book Review: Praying Backwards

Transforming Your Prayer Life by Praying in Jesus' Name by Bryan Chapell, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

If I'd seen this book in a bookstore and read only the title, I'd have passed it by without a second glance. I hate gimmicks, associating them with shallowness, and this title sure sounds gimmicky to me. There is a reason for the title. Praying Backwards is all about praying in Jesus' name--you know, that little phrase that we like to tack on to the end or our prayers as an afterthought--and what praying in Jesus' name really means.

It's a devotional sort of book, but devotional in the best sense. This book's got substance, not only encouraging and instructing us to pray boldly and persistently, for instance, but giving us the biblical reasons that we ought to. I'm not going to say that this book transformed my prayer life--my prayer life was transformed more in the circumstances of my husband's illness and death--but it reminded me of many of the things I learned about praying in those difficult times.

And I needed the reminder. Depending on God for everything is something that comes naturally when times are tough, but when things get better we once again begin to fool ourselves into thinking that have just a little control over our own lives, and that robs our prayer life of the richness of total dependence on God. When times are tough, we are not afraid to say, "Lord, have your will, no matter what it is", but when things run smoothly again, that's a much more difficult prayer to say and mean.

I wish I hadn't been reading this book with a deadline. I would have read one chapter a day, or even one chapter a week, so I could concentrate on putting each principle into practice before I moved on. It's a book that would be better savoured than skimmed, and I'm going to try to reread it more carefully later as I have more time.

The feature I appreciated most in Praying Backwards is the written prayer at the end of each chapter--a prayer that puts the chapter's key thought into the words of a prayer. Each one was moving to read and moving to pray. The feature I liked least was that title. I'm afraid it will put off the sort of people who would be drawn by the substance of the book, and those who would be attracted to the cuteness of the title might not be willing to do the hard work of reading it or putting its principles into practice.

But if you let the title put you off, you'd be missing a valuable book for any Christian to read. Prayer is another one of those things we probably don't think enough about, and we too easily let our prayers become rote, or even nonexistent, and we lose out on the blessings--confidence, peace, and joy--that come from shaping our prayers to conform to those words we always tack on to the end of them: "In Jesus' name, Amen."

You'll find more reviews of this book at the Diet of Bookworms.