Prayer (by Philip Yancey)

I’ve very much appreciated all the books I’ve read by Philip Yancey over the past decade or more. In the absence of new books by this author, I’m gradually re-reading the ones I acquired in the past. The one I have just finished is called, ‘Prayer: Does it make any difference?’ I first read it nearly ten years ago.

It’s a surprisingly long book, given the rather specific topic, and one with a great deal to think about. While the book is written in Yancey’s usual clear and readable style, with anecdotes here and there, it’s not a book to skim through. I found that ten or twelve pages each morning were as much as I could manage at one sitting, and each morning I found something in those pages to inspire or encourage me, or cause me to ponder.

The first section of the book is about keeping in touch with God, stressing the importance of prayer as communication, something which benefits the person praying as much as those for whom prayers are offered. The next section moves on to asking why we pray, looking at arguments against prayer, exploding some myths and misunderstandings. It concludes with the importance of prayer whether or not we understand the reasons. There are some interesting statistics, the result of some research done into the efficacy of prayer, which suggest that it does have some effect overall, whether or not anyone understands how or why.

Another section examines the language of prayer, pointing out that it’s not important to use specific words, and giving the analogy of a father enjoying his child’s talking even if it’s far from fluent, full of mistakes. Unanswered prayer is the topic for a further section; a very important one, where the author acknowledges that it’s often both difficult and frustrating when God appears to be silent, or contradictory. Some suggestions are made, looking at the global picture, but Yancy doesn’t make the mistake of offering pat answers or telling people to pretend that they’re not angry or upset when prayers seem to yield nothing but silence.

It’s a book primarily intended for Christians, but could be of interest to anyone with a belief in God who is interested in reasons for praying, ways of praying, and whether or not it makes any difference at all. It’s not always an easy read, but I found it thought-provoking and would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the importance of prayer.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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