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Heart cries to heaven: A book of prayers

May 2011 | by Paul Cook

Heart cries to heaven: A book of prayers
David Campbell
Day One Publications, 112 pages, £5.00, ISBN: 978-1-84625-229-7
A way to pray
Matthew Henry, Edited by O. Palmer Robertson
Banner of Truth, 417 pages, £14.50, ISBN: 978-1-84871-0870
Prayers on the psalms from the Scottish Psalter of 1595
Banner of Truth, 150 pages, £3.25, ISBN: 978-1-84871-0955
This clutch of books on prayer is a needful stimulus when many of us are better talking about the subject than getting down to it. We have here both ancient and modern. The former consists of prayers based on psalms taken from the Scottish Psalter of 1595 and set in a moderately updated form. They are brief, classical in style, and very effective.
    The modern contribution is provided by a selection of the pulpit prayers of David Campbell, senior minister of Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
    Most pastors would agree that no prayer is more difficult to offer than pulpit prayer, whether delivered extemporaneously or in a carefully prepared form. But Mr Campbell succeeds admirably. His prayers have a relevance and freshness about them, and an absence of tired and hackneyed phrases. This must have made them eagerly anticipated by his congregation.
    Some of us are not too keen on having our prayers composed for us. We like to do it ourselves, even though falteringly at times. In an introduction to A way to pray by Matthew Henry, O. Palmer Robertson comments, ‘Prayer is always best framed in the language of the heart’ (p. xvii), but whether Henry’s ‘Method of prayer’ — the original title — facilitates this is an open question.
    Henry considers the familiar parts of prayer such as praise, confession, petition and thanksgiving, but his proposed method is to paraphrase Scriptures applicable to the subject and turn them into prayer.
    Believers with good memories frequently adopt this technique, with the result that their prayers end up as chains of biblical quotations. It can sound quite impressive, but whether God is impressed is quite another matter.
    All this raises the question as to what exactly is real prayer, which Henry fails to discuss. Surely prayer is not an extended homily in doctrine, nor a form of words offering information either to God or man, nor yet a series of scriptural paraphrases loosely joined together.
    The essence of prayer must be communion with God. The Lewis Revival of 1949-1953 broke out from the burdened heart of a young man with the cry, ‘O God!’ And that was enough.
Paul E. G. Cook


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