12/11/2014

How Not to Pray (by Jeff Lucas)

I have enjoyed Jeff Lucas’s books ever since a friend introduced me to one of them several years ago. He is pastor who has lived in both the UK and US, and writes with a gently satirical style that makes some excellent points in the guise of light comment.

I couldn’t resist a title like ‘How not to pray’ when I spotted it at one of the online bookshops. So much so that I bought it myself rather than putting it on a wishlist. I’ve just been reading it over the past week, and have found it as thought-provoking and helpful as I hoped.

As the author states, there are many books about prayer written by saints or prayer warriors who think nothing of getting up in the early hours for a couple of hours of quiet time with God. However those who are called to this lifestyle probably don’t need a book about prayer; for those of us for whom a couple of minutes sometimes seems to drag, where words disappear and concentration is all over the place, this is the ideal book to read - and, I expect, to read again. And again.

Rather than giving pointers for praying, Jeff Lucas gives us misconceptions - myths that are all too common - which will make it more difficult to pray. There's one per chapter. So for those who really don’t want a prayerful relationship with God, you could follow such principles as: ‘Tell yourself that the only good prayers are long ones...’, ‘Believe that God is a long way off….’, or ‘Forget that you’re a sinner and that you’re surrounded by the same’.

Treading lightly through the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, and with plenty of self-deprecating anecdotes, this book manages to be a powerful aid to anyone who would really like to pray a bit more effectively. Chatting to God at random times is fine, we’re assured. Even a brief ‘Help!’ prayer is okay. God cares about us more than a father for his child, and while he doesn’t want us to be selfish, he’d still prefer us to ask for stuff for ourselves than not to spend time with him at all.

It’s not that there’s anything new in this, or ideas that I hadn’t heard previously at some point. But it’s all tied together so well, expressed so clearly, that I found myself both challenged and encouraged. It even got me thinking, again, about the importance of church services, even if they do seem over-long, trite and tedious at times.

All in all, I thought this book an absolute gem and would recommend it highly.

First published in 2003, this book is still in print in the UK, and can be found inexpensively second-hand on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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