Austin Phelps. The Still Hour: Communion with God in Prayer. N.p., 1859. Reprint: Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005.
Reviewed by Ryan M. McGraw
In many respects, prayer is the centerpiece of our communion with the great Triune God. In our present day, prayer has fallen on hard times. Corporate prayer is given little attention in most churches and wrestling with God in private prayer is becoming a lost art. In addition to these facts, every believer who has taken the duty of prayer seriously has, no doubt, begun to recognize that as vital as prayer is to our relationship with our God, true prayer is hard work and often comes neither naturally nor easily.
In many respects this little book on prayer is unique. It does not deal primarily with the theology of prayer or the manner in which we are to pray. It addresses the psychology of prayer, or the struggles of our hearts and minds in prayer. It exposes many of our sins in prayer, and it will reveal to you many failings that you were probably not aware of before reading it. For example, the chapter on “Idolatry in Prayer” is particularly searching. This book will improve your prayer life tremendously. However, I must warn you that this book shall convict you before it comforts you. As you read, this work will cultivate your communion with God and help to set you upon a straight path with respect to your private prayers.
One last note: this book is a must read on prayer because you will be hard pressed to find its contents in any other place. Phelps wrote in the middle of the 19th century and his book is written with such a broad vocabulary and wealth of imagery that sometimes it reads like poetry. For those of you who love poetry, this will make the book even more enjoyable to read. For those who do not, I am still willing to guarantee that you will not regret the time that you spend with The Still Hour.