In high school I heard somewhere that James the brother of Jesus had knees like a camel. Supposedly he prayed so much on his knees that they became extremely calloused to the point they resembled camel knees.
For some reason I thought this sounded like something to aspire to. So for a time in high school I prayed on my knees. Most of the time wearing shorts (because growing up in California you can do that sort of thing), in hopes that I too might have camel knees.
I had issues in high school.
Now praying just so your knees become calloused like a camel isn’t the best reason to pray. But by God’s grace something in me did begin to change. It wasn’t my knees. But it was a growing desire to be able to communicate with God.
I had a lot of learning to do.
My formative learning on prayer would come through the following five books. There are lots of other great books on prayer, these are just the ones God used in my life to lay a foundational understanding of prayer and how to go about praying.
1. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
This book opened my eyes to a banquet of prayer options. Not only did it give me a far greater understanding of prayer, it also changed a lot of my thinking on how to pray.
2. Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Voice of God
Should I expect to hear from God? Jack Deere emphatically says yes. This was the first book I read (by a Bible scholar) that laid out a convincing biblical argument that God still speaks to us today.
3. Dallas Willard’s Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
Much like Jack Deere’s book, Dallas Willard lays out the case that God still speaks. But then he focuses on how to hear God’s voice and what it means to live a life in two-way conversation with God. It was a very helpful book to read after Deere’s “Surprised by the Voice of God.”
4. John Eldredge’s Walking with God: Talk to Him. Hear from Him. Really.
This book is not so much a book about prayer as it is as an example of a life of prayer. Reading this book felt like I was spending a year with Eldredge just observing what it looks like to be in continual conversation with God.
5. Ben Patterson’s God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms
Ben Patterson convinced me that the best teacher of how to pray is the Scriptures, specifically the Psalms. Learning from Patterson how to pray through the Psalms not only changed my understanding of the Psalms but also radically changed how I pray and what I pray for.
I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to prayer, but these books have certainly helped. I can honestly say that learning to pray has been one the best things I have done as a follower of Jesus. So I hope these books will help you too learn how to pray.
Other helpful books on prayer:
Jim Mindling’s Learn to Breathe: The Surprising Path to a Transformed Life
Paul E Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World
Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
(I haven’t read this one yet, but I have no doubt it will be good)
Which would you recommend reading first?
Great question. I didn’t intend to make the list in the order they should be read, but starting with Foster and/or Deere would be my first choice. I’d love to hear how it goes.