Prayer: does it make any difference? (by Philip Yancey)

I really like Philip Yancey's books. He's an American Christian writer who has a clear style of writing that gets to the heart of issues and problems. He uses anecdotes to illustrate his points, and his language is straightforward, yet very readable. I always look forward to his new books.

'Prayer: does it make a difference?' is one I have been meaning to read for a while. It's a fairly big book - larger in size than typical paperbacks, and over 300 pages. I generally read fast, but it took me some weeks to get through this as I found it rather heavier going than normal for Yancey. It's very well-written, and there are plenty of anecdotes as usual, but perhaps the subject matter required more thought, or perhaps he did more research than usual, so it felt a little dryer.

One slight problem I had was that ever so often there were quotations from various people taking up whole pages, on a different background to the main text. Sometimes one of these pages would appear in (apparently) the middle of a sentence of the main part of the book - so either I had to read ahead, and then go back to the quotation, or I'd read the quote and then back-track in the text. A minor irritation, but one that bugged me several times.

The other strange thing about it is that Yancey never seems to use pronouns to describe God. At least, he doesn't in this book. Mostly this doesn't matter, but once or twice it made for slightly convoluted sentences, where he repeated 'God' and 'God's'two or three times, rather than using 'His' and 'Him/He'. I don't know if this was deliberate (to avoid, perhaps, the controversy of whether to use a capital H!) or accidental, but it felt a little odd.

Having got all hat out of the way, overall I thought it was an excellent book - by far the most thorough I have ever read on the topic of prayer. It gets to the heart of many people's difficulties by looking honestly at what prayer is, what God wants of us, what we expect when we pray, what it means when prayer is not answered, and more.

The first part of the book is called 'Keeping company with God' and looks at how important it is to come into God's presence - not with rituals, or formulas, but to spend time with him, getting to know his presence, learning more about him - and about ourselves in the process.

Further sections look at reasons for praying, whether it actually makes a difference, praying for the sick, and so on.

All in all, I thought it was very good, well-written, and extremely sound. Just a little heavy-going, which isn't something I expect with Philip Yancey's books. But recommended, nonetheless. Just don't expect to read it in a couple of sittings!


Anonymous said...

is this what you will be reading in May? ;)

Sue said...

I couldn't think what you meant.. then noticed the date. How odd! Blogger was having some strange glitches when I posted the review (it took about five attempts) - so evidently something odd happened with the date. I'll alter it to March quickly! Thanks for alerting me.