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Why we pray

By William Philip
July 2015 | Review by Matthew Cox
  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-78359-196-1
  • Pages: 112
  • Price: 7.99
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Book Review

William Philip is convinced that ‘we learn most about prayer simply by learning about God’ (p.18). So, rather than providing a ‘how-to’ guide, he concentrates on the glories of God and the gospel, stirring up in believers a greater desire to seek the Lord in prayer. This is the distinctive strength of this book.

Its four chapters provide four reasons for prayer. Firstly, ‘we pray because God is a speaking God’, who continues to reach out to man through the gospel, despite his rebellion.

We also pray ‘because we are sons of God’. This uplifting chapter dwells on the rich doctrine of adoption, which should only inspire the Christian to seek closer communion with his loving heavenly Father.

Thirdly, ‘we pray because God is a sovereign God’. Here the author deals with the mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. He emphasises that it is beyond human understanding. While this is true, other authors have managed at least to shed further light on the subject. He also risks a fatalistic suggestion that, because God has foreordained all things, prayer has no impact on the world around us.

The final reason we pray is ‘because we have the Holy Spirit’. Based on John 15:7, this chapter urges Christians to find confidence in prayer by discerning God’s will; not through mystical leadings, but by careful consultation of the Spirit-inspired Scriptures. This is important and wise advice.
The book reaches the right conclusions, though not always for the right reasons. The exegesis can be confusing at times, using illustrations which don’t quite work and phrases which are open to misinterpretation (e.g. comparing the Holy Spirit to a personal assistant, p.94).

Why we pray is a pleasant and easy read. It has a casual and chatty style, with the odd joke thrown in. This will appeal to some readers but put off others. There is a lot of repetition and recapping, possibly because the contents haven’t translated too well from their original sermon format.
Overall, the concept and aim of the book are excellent, but the delivery somewhat mixed. A believer who has received sound church teaching may not learn a great deal that is new, but it could be of benefit to students or younger Christians. Any reader would be left with a greater appreciation of the privilege of prayer.

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