Monday, August 18, 2014

The Breath of the Soul

Eric J. Alexander, Prayer: A Biblical Perspective. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2014, 91pp. Paperback. $12.00.

Reviewed by Ryan M. McGraw

Prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is the breath of the soul. A living Christian, therefore, is a praying Christian. Yet prayer is, for many, the most difficult duty of the Christian life. It is relatively easy to sit and read several chapters of Scripture. It is often difficult to focus our attention on prayer exclusively, and even more difficult to “pray without ceasing.” The secret about prayer is that even the most seasoned veterans in the faith still feel as though they are only beginners when they are on their knees in prayer. We need all the biblical help we can get to learn to pray and to persevere in prayer.

For this reason, this reviewer continually seeks to read as many books on prayer as he can. This small book by Eric Alexander caught his eye, both because of its author and because of its size. It is an excellent introductory treatment that is helpful, gripping, and well-suited to use for leading prayer meetings. It is clearly outlined and lends itself easily to discussion. After introducing the subject, the book treats Christ’s teaching on and example of prayer, followed by the examples of the Apostles and others in Scripture.

The emphases on the Spirit’s work in prayer, the necessity of corporate prayer, and the interconnection between prayer and preaching are notes that most desperately need to be sounded in the church today. Alexander relates that a friend once asked a man, “‘Do you have a prayer meeting?’ … The reply was, ‘No we do not have such a meeting, but we have just invited a fine preacher to be our minister.’ My friend responded, ‘If you do not have a prayer meeting in your church, you have no business inviting a minister into your pulpit’” (90). This is why Alexander notes rightly, “the strength of a church can only be measured by its prayer meeting” (42).

For seasoned Christians, this book will not likely teach you something new about prayer. Yet experienced Christians likely know well that the most important elements of the Christian life do not consist in gaining new insights into old truths, but in fostering fresh affections for the triune God. Younger Christians should begin with a book like this to learn the ABC’s of biblical prayer. For all of us, this book is solid food to sustain our spiritual lives.

This review is also appearing in print in The Puritan Reformed Journal.