One of the most vital parts of being a Christian is to pursue, practice, and develop a discipline of prayer. This isn’t a duty, but a delight. The reality of this, though, is that very often books and sermons on prayer are ones which make us feel worse – and end up doing less than we intend, despite our good intentions. It is from this balance of reality that William Philip, Minister at the Tron Church in Glasgow, wrote his book on prayer.
Coming in around 100 pages, this is a book this is both quick and easy to read, whilst also containing good and faithful biblical teaching on the difficult but vital topic of prayer. Rooted in a lifelong, faithful understanding of prayer, drenched in scripture, and deeply practical, this is a book which actually manages to understand and engage with the concerns of the question it seeks to ask. In four chapters – as a reviewer, I would have liked to have had a conclusion/drawing together of the ideas – William gives four powerful reasons to a range of the questions from the hearts of those of us who seek to pray, and ones which I and people close to me have often had cause to ask:
- We pray because God is a speaking God (chapter 1). This chapter makes good use of biblical material on what it means to be human, who Jesus is, and offers a beautiful definition of prayer: “Prayer is simply responding in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ“. This simple, faith-filled understanding underpins the rest of the book.
- We Pray Because We are Sons of God: here William beautifully outlines what it means to be adopted by God (as I noted in a recent blog post), and how this affects how we pray. Not a gendered sonship, but rather an invitation to prayer that gives us confidence. William writes “We can pray, and God will hear us – not on the basis of our performance but on the basis of our privilege as sons adopted into the family of God. Therefore, confidence in prayer is not presumption; it is faith. It is simply honouring the Lord Jesus Christ and his great salvation, which God has given us in his abundant mercy“. I loved this simple, confident, Jesus-focused definition of prayer that builds on the response-definition that the author offered in his first chapter.
- We Pray Because God is a Sovereign God: In this penultimate chapter the author beautifully inverts common objections to the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. William challenges our man-centric understanding with the provocative (yet delightfully biblical and deeply freeing) idea that “Prayer to a God who wasn’t truly sovereign would indeed be a pointless exercise“. With this in mind, though, and the beautiful sweep of scripture, we can rejoice in the truth that ‘But God…’
- We Pray Because We Have the Spirit of God: William closes this little book (which, as I say, could and would be improved with a final chapter, though perhaps this is deliberate) on the fundamental why of why we pray. We do pray because God speaks to us, and well also pray because our God adopts us as God’s children. We can also pray confidently because God is severing: but ultimately we can believe and live in all of this because the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. By appealing to God’s great gift, William offers us the foundation of prayer:
“The Holy Spirit alone can enable us to pray in Jesus’s name because it his sovereign work to confer the name of Jesus upon us, bringing us into the family of God. That is how we receive the adoption as sons that enables us to call God “Father”.“
You can probably tell that I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because fundamentally this is, as I said at the outset, a book that actually does what it says on the cover. This book gives us reasons to pray. Because of Who God is and because of how God relates to us, his people. Whilst I could criticise the traditional language of parts of this book, and it’s lack of a concluding chapter, I think it would make a brilliant little study for any church small group thinking about prayer, and wanting to go deeper into enjoying the presence and power of God.