Gets to the heart of prayer
Most books on prayer focus on technique, and most Christians feel that they fail at prayer and feel guilt as a result. Reeves shows us that the key to prayer is to realise to whom we are praying: to the Father, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of Calvin (prayer is the chief exercise of faith) is distilled in this short book of 46 pages.
Part of the curriculum
I used this book as part of a Spiritual retreat and it was very well received by all levels of maturity. I now include it as part of the 101 new member class curriculum. Another excellent resource by this publisher.
We all struggle with prayer. There I said it. We have all bought new prayer diaries and filled them in for two weeks at most and then the blank pages started rolling in. We have resolved to get up earlier and pray more before the start of the day and we kept it up until Wednesday and then it started to slide before dwindling entirely. We think of our prayer life and we feel guilty because we know it is vital but it never seems easy.
Mike Reeves in this dynamic, little book comes alongside and shows us how we can enjoy a life of prayer. He uses the repeated phrase borrowed from church history that prayer is ‘the chief exercise of faith.’ In 14 succinct chapter we are taken on a journey starting with the problem the prayer, going through the theory of prayer and ending with exhortation to pray, this is the adrenaline shot that we are all looking for to kick start and perpetuate effective prayer lives.
I heartily recommend this explosive, dangerous and digestible book on prayer, it isn’t a how to, but it is stunning treatise on enjoying, valuing and getting going with prayer.
An excellent little book
I’m a bit of a fan of Mike Reeves, and I’ve also been pretty interested in prayer over the past two years. So when I heard that Mike was writing a little book on prayer, in a similar vein to his approach to the Doctrine of the Trinity (That of enjoying God rather than being confused by him), I was pleased. Then, a week or so ago, a little package thunked down on my doormat, and I was the proud possessor of the most yellow book I have read in a while. I devoured Mike’s new, and excellent, ‘Enjoying your prayer life’, on a flight to Norway recently.
At the outset of this review, it is worth noting that this is a very short book. Unusually, perhaps, for a theologian of Mike’s stature, this is a book that is deep and not intimidating, profound but not perplexing. Drawing on his previous work on the kind of God we worship (called ‘The Good God’ in the UK, but titled ‘Enjoying Trinity’ in the USA), Mike explores the vital yet often understated/rated spiritual gangplank of prayer.
This book – coming in at under 50 pages – is published (and best acqquired from!) the good folks at 1ofthose.com – 10Publishing. The book focuses on, and expounds and explains, the Calvinian theme that ‘prayer is the chief exercise of faith’, through 14 very short chapters. Mike is not setting out to re–invent the wheel here, but rather to draw readers (who should, or desire to be, pray–ers) into a deeper and more enjoyable prayer life.
Mike sets good foundations. His starting place is to look at the problem we have with prayer, the essence of what prayer, and the fact that we are all sinners. It is this last which is incredibly important, and is the point from which we begin to journey towards and into God. Yet even this grim truth, this sobering concept of sin, is part of the portrait that Reeves paints of prayer as enjoying God in the miracle and gift of communication.
The rest of the book flows in a trintarian form. We start with Scripture, and look at Jesus as a model pray–er. As part of prayer being communication with and living with the Trinity, Mike offers helpful reflection on ‘Praying at all times’ and ‘Depending on God’. I was pleasantly surprised that, out of 14 chapters, Mike spends 3 of them (pages 35 through 43) looking at the role of the Holy Spirit. This is a vital part of understanding prayer – to consider how the Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, works in and through us.
Overall, then, this is an excellent little book. As an introduction to prayer, it is very helpful, and I can see myself recommending it to new Christians, and to those who struggle with praying/prayer. As someone who has been following Jesus and praying for a while, it was a refreshing book, short enough to speak sharply, and deep enough to aid in replenishment. I hope Mike writes a longer book on this topic soon!
Just read it!
This is the first book that I have read by Michael Reeves and I’m very impressed. I’ve read many books on Christian prayer, yet in just 48 pages the author cuts right through to the heart of this subject. If you find prayer difficult, or you feel guilty about “poor” prayer (or even a lack of prayer) then you must read this book.
Reeves also highlights the reality of Christian prayer with insights that I hadn’t really grasped before. I owe Reeves a debt of gratitude because he clearly marks out the difference between how we normally view prayer and what Christian prayer really is. The understanding that Jesus is the Son of God makes a significance difference to how we pray.
Just read it! The book is so short that it is worth investing your time!
A superb book – convicting, humbling, challenging but hugely encouraging – I will be recommending this to others. There aren’t many books that speak so immediately to my heart that I have to keep stopping reading to pray.
A wonderfully encouraging little book
A wonderfully encouraging little book. Not just to read the once but to refer to at those times when praying seems difficult. I can thoroughly recommend it.
Short, cheap, concise, encouraging, hard hitting
This is a book to hand out to as many people as we can. Short, cheap, concise, encouraging, hard hitting and thorough enough to give Christians of all ages and stages a much welcome reminder of what prayer is!
Mr Innes Macsween
Fantastic little book to get you eager to pray
How do you feel about reading a book on prayer? Part of me feels that’s the last thing I need: another excuse to get me off doing the one thing I seem to avoid: praying.
But when I dipped into this pocket–size offering by Michael Reeves, formerly of UCCF, now ‘theologian–at–large’ (a pretty cool title) at WEST, I was altogether refreshed and thankful for the privilege I have of speaking to my Father God. In short, I was eager to pray.
Reeves begins by laying his cards on the table early. He believes there is a prayerlessness prevalent in evangelical culture, and he wants that to change, and longs for this book to be something of a “tonic” to kick–start refreshed prayer lives.
Reeves’ diagnosis of the problem is interesting. He thinks one of the key reasons we go wrong is because we think of prayer as another “thing” to do, which inevitably leads us to go down the road of searching for ‘prayer techniques’. Instead Reeves holds up John Calvin’s definition of prayer as “the chief exercise of faith” (Institutes III, 20). If this definition is fair (and it’s one that Jonathan Edwards echoed), and Reeves comes back to it again and again, then consequently prayerlessness is actually faithlessness, or as Reeves puts it, “practical atheism”.
That said, Reeves is careful to say that it’s not that our prayer life dictates whether or not we’re really Christians. But our prayer life does reveal “how much you really want communion with God and how much you really depend on him.” It doesn’t determine our identity, but it does indicate how much of a “spiritual baby” we might be. Therefore, Reeves challenges, if you think you’re wonderful, take a look at your prayer life.
This might all sound a bit depressing, but Reeves knows where he’s going. Indeed, there are a few backhanded encouragements before we get there: firstly, we should expect prayer to be a struggle, for we’re creatures who are naturally lacking in faith; secondly, even someone like Martin Luther, whose legend often comes wrapped in hagiographical descriptions of mammoth prayer sessions, actually really struggled with prayerlessness. Prayerlessness is not a new problem, ultimately it’s a sinful human problem.
But that’s all well and good (or not, as the case may be), but are we simply being left to languish in our prayerlessness? Reeves’ ‘solution’, if I can call it that, is that we understand that if prayer is an expression of faith, the way to grow in it is to grow in faith. He cites Romans 10:17: “faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. In other words, “faith – and so prayer – is birthed by the gospel”. As we set before ourselves Jesus Christ, then prayer will follow as the articulation of the Christian’s heart response.
So for the bulk of this short book that’s what Reeves seeks to do. When we wonder at Jesus, then we see the privilege of prayer. Part of that is seeing prayer as something Jesus did, and so loving the gospel means we “learn to enjoy what Jesus has always enjoyed”. Crucially and wonderfully this involves praying to God as our Father, for as Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “Our Father in Heaven”, he is simultaneously showing us the relationship He has always enjoyed whilst also sharing it with us. Reeves uses the startling phrase, “pray as if it were through Jesus’ mouth”, which seems a breathtaking way of describing the privilege we have of calling God Father.
Reeves then addresses the subject of when we pray, encouraging a mindset that expresses the privilege of prayer “at all times”. After all, the whole day is already God’s, so we don’t need to try and ‘fit’ God into each day. Reeves is not against set times of prayers and devotion, but he is certainly arguing for a perspective that sees all of life flowing out of our communion with our Father.
The later chapters quickly cover quite a bit of ground, touching on prayer as a sign of dependence (also about Christlikeness, for the Son was dependent on the Father), the precious role of the Holy Spirit in our prayers (“we can be real with our father, accepting our weakness, and simply stammer out our hearts”), God’s work to shape us in our prayer lives so we echo and share “God’s life and purpose”, as well as prayer as an evidence of unity. The lasting taste in the mouth is that praying to our Father God is a delight.
‘Enjoy your Prayer Life’ is worth getting your hands on. It’s definitely a ‘does–what–it–says–on–the–tin’ book. The bonus is that it’s also really short – many of the ‘chapters’ are only a couple of pages – but that means I was much more likely to read it, and it also meant I was more quickly left to actually pray.
Taken from http://hamage.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/enjoy–your–prayer–life–by–michael–reeves–a-review/
Short but oh-so-sweet
If prayer just feels like a duty to perform, an activity to plan or a ritual to go through, let Mike Reeves lift your eyes to the Father in heaven who loves to hear his Son pray - and who calls us to join in. What a privilege, and what a great book to open up the heart of prayer - needy, dependent children coming to a Father who loves them and loves to listen. Highly recommended.