At the beginning of 2019, I felt God wanting to teach me more about prayer. I began gathering suggestions for books on prayer, and ended up reading several, but these four were my favorites. I felt like each added something different to my understanding of prayer and challenged me in my practice of prayer. My prayer for you as you read this is that one of these books might encourage you to grow in your prayer life as well.
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard J. Foster
While this was my final book on prayer to read for the year, I wish it had been my first. I loved Foster’s systematic approach to spiritual disciplines in Celebration of Discipline, and his book on prayer is similarly written. In each chapter, he describes a different type of prayer, from the Prayer of Rest to the Prayer of Suffering, from Simple Prayer to Intercessory Prayer.
Some very well-meaning teaching can make prayer seem so simple that it becomes stale and rote. But Foster’s explanation of these twenty-one types of prayers shows that it is the complex love language between God and his people. While even the youngest of believers can come confidently to the throne in prayer, Foster teaches us how we can grow in the powerful working of prayer. This book enriched my theology of prayer while at the same time giving me practical ways to grow in my prayer life.
“We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying. In fact, it is in the very act of prayer itself—the intimate, ongoing interaction with God—that these matters are cared for in due time.”Richard J. Foster
Too Busy not to Pray by Bill Hybels
While Foster’s book focuses on types of prayer, Hybels’ book focuses on the effect of prayer—greater intimacy with God. His book gives us a better understanding of the God who created prayer as a means for us to be in relationship with him. God calls us into his presence, invites us to talk with him, and then speaks to our hearts, all through prayer!
This book is a great place to start if you are still unsure of why you should pray in the first place. It is a good reminder that God is both willing and able to answer our prayers and that prayer draws us into his power and presence. Hybels also gives helpful prayer practices from his own life to encourage you to slow down and pray.
“Whatever it takes for you to own the doctrine of God’s omnipotence, do it. Until you own it, you will be a faint-hearted pray-er. You’ll make a few wishes on your knees, but you won’t be able to persevere in prayer until you know in your heart that God is able.”Bill Hybels
Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
I can hear Shirer’s voice as I read this book, passionately compelling us to get on our knees and fight through prayer. This book, inspired by the movie War Room, outlines ways that we can seriously, strategically, and specifically petition for our own lives and intercede on the behalf of others.
What’s most helpful in this book are the tear-out cards in the back where you can write out your prayers as you finish each chapter. I did something similar in her Armor of God study, and it’s a wonderful way to make sure that what you’re learning doesn’t end when you close the book. If you’re new to regularly and intentionally lifting up prayer requests, her strategy is a great place to start.
“Prayer with precision is key. When we pray about the places where we seriously suspect the enemy is at work—that’s how we keep our prayers focused, not only on particular situations but on biblical truths that are consistent with maintaining victory in the midst of them.”Priscilla Shirer
Prayer Together by Megan Hill
While every book on prayer gave me more theological foundations and practical application, this book above all challenged me the most. Hill reminds us that God did not design prayer to be done in a vacuum. It is not only a personal practice; it was created to be done in relationship with other believers and with God himself.
If I’m honest, I would say that praying together has not been a priority for me. I may tune out when a pastor prays on stage, I don’t always see the value of prayer during small group Bible study, and I definitely don’t go to regular church prayer meetings. This book changed all of that for me. I now actively pray alongside those praying publicly during Sunday worship. I desire time to pray with believers in both small groups and larger groups. And I seek to pray more out loud with my husband and daughter. This short but potent book will challenge the way you see and practice corporate prayer.
“Praying together requires selflessness. In corporate prayer we surrender our personal priorities—holding our own checklist of prayer requests loosely while committing ourselves to pray for the needs of other individuals and of the group as a whole. Also, we surrender our own comfort—showing up to a certain place at a particular time among real people.”Megan Hill
These four books had an impact on my spiritual life in 2019, and I’m already excited about the growing pile of books on my nightstand to be read in the coming year. As the new year is right around the corner, begin making a list of books that you think can help you grow in your spiritual journey during 2020.