“The problem with classes on prayer is that you spend most of the time talking about prayer and very little time praying,” my husband complained.
At dinner, my sister had explained her frustrations in preparing such a class for her church’s adult education slot. The rest of us were pulling easier-said-than-done pins and lobbing suggestion like small grenades. “Just teach what Jesus did,” my father repeated. “You can’t go wrong with the Lord’s Prayer.”
She had already read many helpful books. She found giants of the faith such as E. M. Bounds, Ole Hallesby, Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, Charles Spurgeon, and R. A. Torrey quoted frequently. More modern authors such as Jill Briscoe, Richard Foster, Stanley Grenz, Margaret Guenther, Abraham Heschel, Peter Kreeft, and Thomas Merton offered thoughtful encouragement, descriptions, histories, and theologies of prayer. Best-sellers such as David Yonggi Cho, Stormie Omartian, and Dutch Sheets advocated intercessory prayer and told countless anecdotes to inspire confidence that prayer is powerful and it does work. Philip Yancey reported on prayer. Bill Hybels and John White led readers through studies and meditations. She herself preferred to use the Puritan and Celtic prayers that were recorded by Arthur Bennett and the Northumbria Community, or the ancient devotional writings that Emilie Griffin, James Bryan Smith, and Phyllis Tickle had gathered.
However, while these authors wrote about prayer, she wanted her class to pray.
I pulled my pin and tossed. “Give a five-minute history on one type of prayer that the church has practiced, boil it down into practical ‘how-tos,’ and then practice it. Try another kind the next week.”
That conversation took place ten years ago and prompted the development and application of this material.
Practicing actual prayer is by far the most important aim of this website. In Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom, Stanley Grenz notes, “Prayer, it would seem, is not a topic to be discussed but a task to be done.”1 Hearing God and feeling heard by him satisfies a deep hunger in our souls. Studying how to do that can only go so far. Being inspired by others’ experiences can only go so far. Recognizing our place in the history of God’s praying people fulfills only a portion of the process. We must also join with them in seeking the Lord and thinking his thoughts after him (Isa 55:6–9). We must actually spend time with God if we want to develop our own conversations with him. To quote my dad again, we must “DO something!” We must pray.
1Stanley Grenz, Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2005), 6.