A Book Review

Richard L. Pratt Jr. is an American theologian who is intent on training Christian leaders around the world through a ministry he founded called, Third Millennium Ministries.[1] He taught at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson and Orlando for more than twenty years. In Orlando he chaired the Old Testament Department for several years and is now part of the adjunct faculty teaching Old Testament courses.[2] His desire to equip those in ministry life, his teaching experience and his training makes him more than equipped to write a thorough and practical understanding of prayer.

The entire book desires to find answers to two vital questions in a Christian’s life of prayer: ‘How can we improve our prayers? What can we do to make communication with God more central and more fulfilling?’.[3] The title is the key to his central theme. He desires that the eyes of our hearts would be open when praying in order to examine ‘what we think, do, and feel in prayer’.[4] Pratt’s hope for this book is that the reader would be encouraged ‘to join in the pilgrimage of prayer, a journey whose end will come only when we meet God face to face’.[5]

The outline of the book begins in chapter one with a brief introduction to the three vital dimensions of prayer: God, ourselves and our communication. The book is then divided into these three sections that further develops each concept in a heavily practical and biblical foundational way. Chapters two to five deal with the concept of God in prayer, chapters six to nine further explore ourselves in prayer and chapters ten to thirteen consider the communication skills needed in prayer. The final chapter then briefly concludes the entire book with some more practical suggestions. There are also two appendices attached to the end which are extraordinarily helpful in considering the many names, titles and metaphors for God in the Bible and that can be incorporated to make our prayers richer as well as a list of his divine attributes. These two appendices can be easily found and very useful, particularly in preparing corporate prayers but also in one’s own private communication with God.

There is much to learn throughout Pratt’s book. Realising that God is multi-faceted, that we need to know our own hearts and that variety is the spice of prayer life can help lift our enjoyment of and participation in regular communication with God.

Particularly helpful points that Pratt drew out in his section on God was that prayer should not be an obligation. It is far more than an obligation. This is helpful when discipling those who struggle with their prayer life. If they understand that prayer is a delight because they understand the enormous dependence they have on God, it can be a break-through in developing a regular prayer life. If God is the focus, then prayer can be a wonderfully invigorating tool in one’s love for him. To assist with this, consider the various metaphors that describe him within in God’s Word, meditate on them in prayer and consider how the titles of God can meet the needs one has in any given moment of life. By focusing on God in prayer, one can recall the past, present and future actions he has performed in his redemption of humanity as well as his continual sustaining providence. There is no end to the praise one can give to this great God.

When considering oneself in prayer Pratt was very insightful in a variety of ways. He understands that the Christian life is full of a plethora of experiences and emotions. This being the case, honest communication with God is not just an option but a necessity. A Christian ought to not be hesitant in describing negative and positive emotions. It is helpful to be descriptive of how one is feeling. At the same time, Pratt showed wisdom in mentioning limitations that would be important to be aware of when describing negative emotions to God.[6] There was also the insightfulness of seeing prayer as a path to joy. This joy may be exuberant or quiet confidence in God and it can be developed by reflecting on God, his world and his work. One thought Pratt developed was the idea of distinguishing between need and greed when bringing our requests to God. This does hold some benefit but it may be confusing for some who desire to communicate with God but are hesitant to talk about pressing matters on their heart believing them to be too selfish or greedy. It may be more fitting to emphasise the child and father relationship that prayer provides and the Father’s desire to hear the heart of his child as Tim Chester encourages in his book on prayer.[7]

In his final section it was helpful to understand the usefulness of balance between form and freedom in prayer. Both can be helpful in developing one’s personal prayer life. In corporate prayer it seems that some freedom could work but the majority of prayer in the corporate setting could be helped by more form in that one scripts their prayer beforehand. There is also some wisdom in communicating requests and thankfulness to God that Pratt explores followed by some discussion on communication in prayer that is more than just words. He considers there to be a basis in the Bible for how one positions themselves while praying, either kneeling or hands raised. Though he argues this position, he then advises not incorporating this in the public gathering. This seems to be a flaw in his logic and may need to be qualified further.

This book is highly practical through its challenging exercises at the end of each paragraph. This is possibly its greatest strength and allows for its use in training groups or individuals. This is useful for any Christian who desires to appreciate and habitually grow in their prayer life.

 

[1] Third Millennium Ministries, ‘Biblical Education. For the World. For Free.’, in Thirdmill.Org, n.d., http://thirdmill.org/, (accessed October 19, 2018).

[2] ‘Dr. Richard Pratt’, in Reformed Theological Seminary, n.d., http://www.rts.edu/Orlando/faculty/bio.aspx?id=449, (accessed October 19, 2018).

[3] Richard L. Pratt, Pray with Your Eyes Open: Looking at God, Ourselves, and Our Prayers (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1987), vii.

[4] Pratt, Pray with Your Eyes Open, vii.

[5] Pratt, Pray with Your Eyes Open, viii.

[6] Pratt, Pray with Your Eyes Open, 86–89.

[7] Tim Chester, You Can Pray: Finding Grace to Pray Every Day (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2014).

Bibliography

Chester, Tim, You Can Pray: Finding Grace to Pray Every Day (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2014).

Pratt, Richard L., Pray with Your Eyes Open: Looking at God, Ourselves, and Our Prayers (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1987).

Third Millennium Ministries, ‘Biblical Education. For the World. For Free.’, in Thirdmill.Org, n.d., http://thirdmill.org/, (accessed October 19, 2018).

‘Dr. Richard Pratt’, in Reformed Theological Seminary, n.d., http://www.rts.edu/Orlando/faculty/bio.aspx?id=449, (accessed October 19, 2018).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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