Thursday, December 6, 2012

Practical Prayer

“I’m sorry, I’m not really into prayer.”  This response to my suggestion we become prayer partners honestly surprised me.  I know my friend to have a deep, sincere faith, a thorough knowledge of the Bible, and the kind of insight, wisdom and spiritual discernment I had just assumed came from an active prayer life.
I can’t remember now where on the Internet I read the book review about Kneeling with Giants by Gary Neal Hansen. (I think it might have been here).  But something about the review piqued my interest.  It might have been the way it referred back to the “giants” of Church history, like Benedict, Augustine, Luther, Calvin and others. It might have been because it seemed to offer very practical advice on how to pray not just the why it’s important.
My local library has a service where you can request a book for them to purchase if they don’t already have it in their catalogue, and it gets reserved for you once it/when they buy it.  So I put in my request.
If only this book had been available in 2011!  The most significant symptom of my post-earthquake trauma was that at the time I most wanted to and needed to pray, I found I couldn’t.  There was no lack of faith, God was still there, but I just couldn’t pray.  The turning point in my recovery has been learning to pray again.  The first half of this year I worked really hard on practicing regular daily prayer.  I managed to keep it up until the end of the Easter season, but once winter started to bite, and I slid into my hibernation mode, my daily prayer routine fell back out again. 
It was a couple of months later that I finally got the email that it was ready for me to borrow. By the time I finished reading the introduction I realised I’d need longer than the 4 weeks the library would lend it to me for, so promptly ordered my own copy through (I love the free worldwide shipping!)
Gary Neal Hansen describes ten different ways of praying, from the teachings of ten of history’s best teachers.  He draws on the writings and teachings as diverse as Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican all the way through to Evangelical and Charismatic.  Then he gives practical guidance on how to actually practice praying in each of these traditions, and discusses objectively the pros and cons of each one.
As the author says in his introduction: “It is a pity that so many Christians do not have ways to pray that they find life giving.  …countless faithful people learn one way to pray – from a book, their pastor or their own imagination – and if it does not seem joyful when they try it, they figure they are just not good at prayer.”
Originally written for a Theological Seminary course, it is also written in a style that as a lay-person I found it approachable and easy to read.  I’ll be honest though – when it comes to putting in the practice, I’m still working on the first three chapters! 
I’d love to be able to work through this with a small group or a prayer partner.  Although the friend at the beginning of this post with was willing, we are both busy Mums with young children, and we just haven’t found a time yet that works for us to meet regularly.  However, I saw a rumour on Facebook that our Church Administrator had ordered a copy, and I have hinted about the small group study material in the appendix.
P.S. Neither Gary Neal Hansen nor Book Depository have sponsored this post.  All opinions are my own.


  1. I've never read this book, but I'm glad it was there for you. Prayer is a wonderful thing--talking to a friend that understands all your feelings and thoughts.

    The first sentence reminded me about an experience with a Jehovah's Witness. After she had visited several times, I told her that we probably wouldn't be able to change each other's views on the Bible, but could we pray together for our city. She turned me down, politely, because, apparently, we don't always call God by His 'real' name of Jehovah. Hmmm. I think He is big enough to overlook it if it's a problem, but she couldn't. Oh, well.

    I hope you and your friend can get together for prayer and start something really BIG!

  2. Claudia, I can identify so much with your not being able to pray when under huge stress after the earthquake. I had a similar experience during my two cancer diagnoses, especially when it came to praying for myself. Like you I came to a point where prayer became possible again, but I'm sure I would have valued a book like this to help me. Another for my wishlist.

  3. Thanks for you comments and your empathy! I never thought that prayer would be unavailable for me until I experienced it. I'm glad Perpetua that you've also found healing since, and I would definitely recommend this book.