I’ve always found prayer hard – both public and private. Having to pray out loud used to make me quite anxious and I’ve never put my name down for praying at a public meeting. My personal prayer life is a far cry from what it should be like from someone who professes to trust God in all things and seeks to live for him. I try to make excuses, such as I struggle with prayer because I’m not used to having a monologue with anyone, even God. I need help.
I had heard great things about this book; someone who had read it said it completely revolutionised their prayer life. I did not expect the same for myself, not because I didn’t believe it would be a helpful book, but because I know myself and I take a very long time to change.
I really like the premise of this book. The quote above is from his introduction (and also the front cover), and his last chapter reiterates the idea that, “Prayer is not like a good recipe: simply follow a set of mechanical directions and everything turns out alright in the end. That is why this book has tried to stress the relationship we must nurture as we pray to the living God” (p208). He addresses the heart of prayer, which is relationship with God, faith expressed through prayer.
I also love that he takes us through biblical prayers in Paul’s letters. It’s wonderful to think through them one by one, thinking in depth about what Paul is praying and why. The aim is to help us rethink and reshape how we pray, replacing repetitive, mechanical, insular prayer (or no prayer at all) with prayers flowing from thankfulness of God’s grace, for growth in godliness and faith in believers, and for fruitful ministries.And prayer that stems from your relationship with God, which should be a joy and delight.
I am still yet to have a “spiritual reformation” in my prayer life. But it’s helpful understanding that prayer isn’t necessarily easy. “Paul understands real praying to include an element of struggle, discipline, work, spiritual agonising against the dark powers of evil” (p211). Carson’s first chapter had some practical tips for working on your prayer life, which I will go back and read again, having read the rest of the book. Some things I will work on: a weekly prayer diary, with reminders to pray for people close to me, ministries I know personally and ministries across Australia and the world – just choosing a few rather than overwhelming myself and just not starting; praying while reading the bible, so that it is less like a monologue and more about responding to what God has said; and praying – if I don’t pray, I won’t pray. A Call to Spiritual Reformation is not a self-help book; it’s a book that reminds you to get your help from God, in all things, by pointing us back to his word. Very much worth reading.