'We shall do well to watch our habits of prayer with a holy watchfulness. Here is the pulse of our Christianity. Here is the true test of our state before God.’ These words of J. C. Ryle are as true today as they were when they were first written over 150 years ago. Prayer matters, and Eric Alexander’s chief concern in this book is to remind Christians that prayer is fundamental, and not supplemental, both in the individual and in the corporate lives of God’s people. He shows that nowhere is this dependence on prayer more fully exemplified than in the life and teaching of Jesus himself, and in the ministry of the New Testament church. Church leaders will find these studies a great spur to pray for the spiritual growth of their people, and church members will see afresh the urgent need to pray for their leaders. For those who find it difficult to pray there is much encouragement here, as the author also addresses the common problems believers face when coming to pray. In short this is a book for all those who want to live nearer to God and to be refreshed in their communion with him. ERIC ALEXANDER has been a minister of the Church of Scotland for over fifty years and has served churches in Glasgow, the city of his birth, and in Newmilns, Ayrshire. Throughout his ministry he has preached at conferences in the United Kingdom and overseas, and is a Council Member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is married to Greta and they have a daughter and a son. In 2010 the Trust published his book, Our Great God and Saviour.
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- Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
- ISBN: 978-1-84871-149-5
- Pages: 96
- Price: 5.75
Maintaining a consistent prayer life is something I struggle with personally, so I was pleased to be able to read a book on prayer as a willing patient as well as reviewer.
Because there are so many books on prayer out there, I was looking for something different and genuinely helpful. This I found in Eric Alexander’s book, at least in part.
The author’s stated aim is to recall Christians and Christian churches to seeing prayer as ‘fundamental and not supplemental’. This strap line is helpfully reiterated as the book develops.
The reader is called to look again at the biblical teaching and see prayer as more than just support to kingdom work, but as the main dish itself. Reflecting on the apostles’ prioritisation in Acts 6:3-4, the author reminds us that ‘a consistent theme in Scripture is that prayer is work’ (p.39).
What is not clear is the precise target audience. The tone of the book is quite formal. Frequent use of words such as ‘supplicating’, ‘moribund’ and ‘importunate’ give it a Dickensian feel, where modern alternatives would do a better job.
Alexander’s quotes are drawn almost exclusively from old hymns and even older saints. There are few points of stylistic connection with the younger reader or new believers. As a result, the good material contained here might need to be ‘translated’ by a savvy cultural intermediary, such as a ‘switched-on’ youth leader or contemporary preacher.
I like short chapters. It’s easier to pick a book up when you know that, even if you only have a few minutes, you’ll be able to get something bite-sized from it.
Including the epilogue, this book covers 13 topics in less than 90 pages, so the chapters are necessarily brief and to the point. The down side, of course, is that the reader is sometimes left needing more. For example, the few hints the author throws out in the very short section on ‘Practical difficulties in prayer’ (pp.85-87) leave you longing for far more.
There is a personal feel to the book which drew me in. I enjoyed reading about the author’s personal engagements with prayer, people of prayer and his underlying belief that prayer is a natural expression of genuine relationship with God.
Alexander is not afraid to hit hard at core sinful attitudes, such as hypocrisy and indifference to God. I found this refreshing, challenging and helpful. I indeed needed to hear him tell me that, ‘for most people, I think the ultimate reason for prayerlessness is a lack of desire for God’ (p.57).