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Top Ten Books on Prayer

posted by xscot mcknight

I’ve been asked what are my top books on prayer. Since I covered “prayer books” (as a book with prayers rather than teaching about prayer) in Praying with the Church, I’ll focus here on books that teach us about prayer. Feel free to mention your favorite books on prayer.
Above all, the book of Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer.
1. Richard Foster, Prayer.
2. C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.
3. G.A. Buttrick, Prayer.
4. Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God.
5. D. Bonhoeffer, The Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible.
6. Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience.
7. D. Bloesch, The Struggle of Prayer.
8. Calvin’s Institutes and Luther’s stuff on Lord’s Prayer.
9. Classics like Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena.
10. P & C Zaleski, Prayer: A History



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todd

posted July 6, 2006 at 5:28 am


thanks for this list scot. now i have to find some money to buy em all.



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Sivin

posted July 6, 2006 at 5:48 am


great list Scot. My favorites Bonhoeffer, Foster and Brother Lawrence made the list! And of course, what Luther wrote



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Paul Hill

posted July 9, 2006 at 11:22 am


I love Letters To Malcolm it has long been one of my favorites on prayer. The format makes the deep theology he writes about very accessible. Foster’s book is a great survey on prayer as well. He exposes the reader to all kind of prayer experiences.



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J. Michael Matkin

posted July 9, 2006 at 12:17 pm


von Balthasar’s book on prayer is really good. So is Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray. Norman Grubb’s biography of Rees Howells doesn’t so much teach how to pray (except, perhaps, by example), but always makes me want to pray.



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Clay Knick

posted July 9, 2006 at 1:13 pm


I return to Foster again and again.
Clay



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Patrick

posted July 9, 2006 at 2:53 pm


I also like Ann and Barry Ulanov’s “Primary Speech”. Margaret Guenther’s work is good, too.



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jim b.

posted July 9, 2006 at 3:03 pm


One thing I often struggle with as a pastor is knowing how to pray publicly for the “big” things that happen around the world: wars, palestinian conflict, natural disasters, etc. Any ideas for resources in that vein?



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Dave

posted July 9, 2006 at 3:03 pm


I agree with many of your picks Scot. Calvin’s section on prayer and worship is wonderful. I would add these:
The Soul of Prayer by PT Forsyth
The Transforming Friendship by James Houston
Prayer by O. Hallesby



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fresno dave

posted July 9, 2006 at 3:48 pm


Great question, Jim B. I don’t known the answer, but i know Scot does(:
I love CS Lewis line from the chapel service after WW2 broke out: “The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.”
This really b;essed me after 9/11.” (“Learning During Wartime” from Weight of Glory)
Even saying publicly from the pulpit “It’s tough to know how to pray publicly in times like these.”



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Ted Gossard

posted July 9, 2006 at 9:11 pm


Thanks Scot, for this list. Any realistic biographies that help us get something of the insight of someone’s prayer life, or of a move of prayer among Christians, I too have found to be very stirring. Though at the same time, I still value more highly the words and reflections of people themselves on prayer.
I need to get into a few of these again and get into the rest.



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rinkevichjm

posted July 9, 2006 at 10:05 pm


You might have considered Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and the Gospel-on Prayer, by Fr. Thomas Dubay S.M., 1989, San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 0-89870-263-1. Fr. Dubay has been featured in several EWTN series.



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Kevin Burt

posted July 11, 2006 at 12:11 am


Scot,
Also, for beginners (and not-so-beginners who are struggling to re-develop a habit of prayer), I’d recommend Peter Kreeft’s PRAYER FOR BEGINNERS (Ignatius Press). It’s nice, short, and wonderfully pithy.
Kevin



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bob

posted July 11, 2006 at 1:21 pm


hgfhgfh



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Bob Robinson

posted July 11, 2006 at 6:44 pm


Absolute favorite of all time:
Prayer: The Cry For The Kingdom by Stan Grenz.
The first half of the book is the best theology on prayer I’ve read, plus the second half is the best I’ve read on practical and biblical advice on how to pray.



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brad the barber

posted July 11, 2006 at 9:48 pm


Let us not forget the short lived pastor Kyle Lake’s Reunderstanding Prayer.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 11, 2006 at 9:54 pm


Good one, Brad.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 12, 2006 at 2:43 pm


Bob,
I’m sorry I missed that one. I read that when it came out and really liked it. I just went to my shelves and I can’t find it. Must have put it in my school office.



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tm

posted July 13, 2006 at 8:34 am


I would add two books, Prayer and Modern Man, by Jacques Ellul and Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Ellul’s book is in part a response to theological conditions of the late 60s, but it remains sharp and challenging. This is from his chapter on Prayer as Combat –
“We never dare enough in petitioning God, in putting him to the test of what he can do (and of what he has already wanted to do, since we have the promise). It is not resorting to magic … It is, rather, the audacity of knowing that God can do that, and of commiting oneself to asking him. It is a commitment of self, because what a blow it is if God remains silent! … If our prayers are prudent and empty, that is because we have become incapable of putting God to the test. We are afraid of risking our reputations…. In fact, we are afraid, both that God might manifest himself and the we might be committed unreservedly and without limit.”
From Balthasar, a book so learned and devout that it is difficult to pick one quote. In the first chapter he says, “Prayer is a conversation in which God’s word has the initiative and we, for the moment, can be nothing more than listeners.”
To add some authority (like that from a back-of-the-book blurb), Eugene Peterson in Take and Read calls the Balthasar book, “Simply the best book on prayer that I have ever read. It is also difficult. Difficult because it is profound, theologically comprehensive, and spiritually rigorous.” On Ellul he says, “A vigorous, energetic exploration of the nature of prayer understood and practiced in the cultural conditions of our age…. Ellul is a perceptive and penetrating guide.”



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