Five Books That Helped Me Learn How to Pray

 

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)

Dallas Willard – On Being A Student Of Jesus

Who teaches you? Whose disciple are you? Honestly.

One thing is for sure: You are somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live. Aristotle remarked that we owe more to our teachers than to our parents, for though our parents gave us life, our teachers taught us the good life….

It is one of the major transitions of life to recognize who has taught us, mastered us, and then to evaluate the results in us of their teaching. This is a harrowing task, and sometimes we just can’t face it. But it can also open the door to choose other masters, and possibly better masters, and one Master above all.

The assumption of Jesus’ program for his people on earth was that they would live their lives as his students and co-laborers. They would find him so admirable in every respect—wise, beautiful, powerful, and good— that they would constantly seek to be in his presence and be guided, instructed, and helped by him in every aspect of their lives…

The effect of such continuous study under Jesus would naturally be that we learn how to do everything we do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17); that is on his behalf or in his place; that is once again, as if he himself were doing it. And of course that means we would learn “to conform to everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). In his presence our inner life will be transformed, and we will become the kind of people for whom his course of action is the natural (and supernatural) course of action.”

 

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Excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God pp. 271-272