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Christian Prayer for Dummies Christian Prayer for Dummies

Richard Wagner
ISBN 9780764555008 (0764555006)
John Wiley & Sons, 2003
£14.95

Category: Prayer and Poetry

You want to pray, but you don't know how.

If that's you, you're not alone. Even the first disciples — Peter, James, John and the rest of the gang, the guys who spent three years hanging out with Jesus in person — felt compelled to ask Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." The answer Jesus gave is well known, The Lord's Prayer, a prayer that this book refers to as "The Original Christian Prayer for Dummies" (chapter 5). — if you've got a Bible handy, look it up in Luke's Gospel, chapter 11 (or visit biblegateway.com).

Wagner is described on the cover as an "Evangelical Christian, teacher and author" and this book gives you exactly what you'd expect from someone standing in that tradition: a straight down the line mechanic's manual for prayer. If it's a straightforward guide on how to restart your stalled prayer-engine, then this is certainly the book for you, a black and white approach using tried and tested routines such as the ACTS method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication), backed up by a similar approach to the Bible. You want to know how to hear God's voice? Step one in preparing yourself to listen to God is "Get the inside scoop on what God will say to you by reading his diary (the Bible)." ("Cheat Sheet", inside front cover). An entire chapter (Ch. 19, "Hearing That Voice in the Cornfield") helpfully explores the issues and questions surrounding the entire "God told me" syndrome — God does speak to us today; but so does our empty stomach, so do other voices, so does Satan, trying to draw us off the straight and narrow. But "God's voice is always in line with the Bible." (p.261).

Chapter 8, "Looking to the Scriptures for Help", examines the relationship between prayer and the Bible, explaining "how the Bible can serve as the ultimate prayer strategy guide for you." (p.105). It offers advice on how to read and reflect on a Bible passage, on how to use it a springboard for prayer, as well as looking at the actual prayers — such as the Psalms — that occur in the Bible. There's no ducking the issues, either: some psalms are "downright nasty" and a brief box-out section (p.113-114) looks at how we take these on board.

In sum, this is a book that doesn't miss a trick — it looks at the excuses people come up with for not praying; tracks your prayer life back to your relationship with God; deals with maintaining a prayer journal; tackles the issue of unanswered prayers (preferring to use the phrase "lost prayers" since, for Wagner, there's no such thing as an unanswered prayer); discusses praying alone, with family, in groups and in public; examines prayer for healing, praying in tongues, and learning to discern God's will; and finishes up — in typical "for Dummies" style — with the "The Part of Tens", offering a collection of prayers for specific occasions, for use with children; suggestions for prayer retreats and pilgrimages; and lists helpful prayer-related websites.

If you enjoy the "for Dummies" approach and can cope with the Evangelical certainty that characterises Wagner's style, this is a book you'll love. If you prefer a more open-ended spirituality, you'll find it annoying in places, but there's a lot of practical, down-to-earth advice here that you'll still benefit from.

Phil Groom, July 2005

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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