All of Christendom prays, but the methods and conceptions of prayer differ widely. Recent books on prayer can be separated first into the categories of Protestant and Roman Catholic and then subdivided. In this survey we will first look at a representative book in each camp, Protestant and Catholic: Harold Lindsell’s When You Pray (reprint by Baker, 182 pp., $2.95 pb), and Bernard Häring’s Prayer: The Integration of Faith and Life (Fides, 145 pp., n.p.). Lindsell is the editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, and Häring is a professor at the Academia Alfonsiana in Rome.) Then we will consider other books in subdivisions of each camp.

I. The Protestant Books

Lindsell’s approach in When You Pray is, he says, “explanatory, not apologetical; it is didactic, not hortatory.” He demonstrates the faith stance of prayer. But prayer is also work: “It demands of men all that they are and have.” The reader is invited to consider the laws and problems of prayer and the things that hinder it. The chapter on hindrances is one of the best; among the fourteen that are discussed, every serious reader will find clues to what bedevils his prayer life. The book ends with a chapter of outstanding illustrations of answered prayer. Actually, the entire book is a treasure trove of illustrations from the lives of illustrious evangelicals of yore: Matthew Henry, G. Campbell Morgan, E. M. Bounds, Robert Speer, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, and many more. No new seas are crossed in this book, but deep waters are stirred.

The books on the Protestant side may be generally divided into three approaches: evangelical, traditional churchly, and charismatic.

A. Evangelical. Cecil Murphey, the pastor of Riverdale Presbyterian Church in Georgia, is the author of an excellent personal and group book entitled Prayer: Pitfalls and Possibilities (Hawthorn, 153 pp., $3.50 pb). He is useful and common-sensical, especially on the topic of prayer and healing. Murphy writes with a pastor’s perspective and relates numerous incidents from his pastoral experience. He maintains a nice balance between the august Martyn Lloyd-Jones approach to God in prayer and the approach of the uncomplicated people of this world who need to pat the Lord on the shoulder. The thirty readable chapters average five pages and conclude with challenging questions.

Ray Stedman, a pastor of the dynamic Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, is one of the pioneers of the “body life” concept of the church. That concept permeates his new book, Jesus Teaches on Prayer (Word, 184 pp., $4.95). Stedman mixes traditional practices and innovative ideas, and comes across well in a popular style. Readers may debate his understanding of the “true Lord’s Prayer” as John 17. Although he appreciates occasional “amens” that punctuate pastoral and group prayers, he closes all twelve of his chapters with carefully framed formal prayers, thus suggesting that spontaneous prayer isn’t the only kind for evangelicals.

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A third author is the prolific Lehman Strauss, who offers Sense and Nonsense About Prayer (Moody, 123 pp., $3.95). Strauss tells us he’s not an expert on the philosophy of prayer, but he acquaints us with what he knows about its practice—and he does it well. He kicks away the nonsense of evangelical extremes and knocks in some sense about praying in Jesus’ name, fasting, and other areas of chronic confusion.

Next come three more specialized books. Healing, Confession, Prayer (AMG, 143 pp., $1.75 pb) is an exposition of James 5:14–16 by Spiros Zodhiates. It is designed for those who are fascinated by frequent references to the aorist tense but who have no working knowledge of Greek. Zodhiates is helpful in getting grips on such matters as the place of elders, oil, and confession in prayers for healing. What Happens When Women Pray (Victor, 144 pp., $1.75 pb) by Evelyn Christenson is a good group book that comes with a leader’s guide. William Krutza’s whimsically titled How Much Prayer Should a Hamburger Get? (Baker, 91 pp., $1.25 pb) is designed for teen-agers but is good for adults as well. It is a compilation of articles that appeared chiefly in Eternity and Christian Herald.

B. Traditional Churchly. These three books cannot be said to be anti-evangelical, but the accent is not there. (Nor can the evangelical books cited above be considered anti-traditional churchly, but again the accent is not there.) The Jesus Prayer (Fortress, 96 pp., $2.50 pb) by Per-Olof Sjogren, the dean of Gothenburg Cathedral in Sweden, is a lovely meditation on the ancient formula “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.” More heady is Yes to God (Abbey, 133 pp., $3.95 pb) by Alan Ecclestone, a Church of England priest. A book that takes children seriously is Johanna Klink’s Teaching Children to Pray (Westminster, 78 pp., $1.95 pb). This book, translated from Dutch, is somewhat in the austere Reformed manner, which is preferable to the treacle-laden approach common to children’s religious instruction in America.

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C. Charismatic. I do not subscribe to the charismatic teaching, but in my judgment two of the better Protestant charismatic books on prayer are If My People … (Word, 153 pp., $3.25 pb) by Jimmy and Carol Owens, and Catherine Marshall’s Adventures in Prayer (Chosen, 96 pp., $4.95).

Ii. The Catholic Books

Virtually all the Roman Catholic books on prayer recently available for review lean toward the charismatic movement. Bernard Häring’s Prayer: The Integration of Faith and Life ought to be read by every Protestant interested in the obscuring of theological lines encouraged by the charismatic movement. Häring is Catholicism’s foremost moral theologian and a fecund author. What he says is often profoundly provocative.

Häring closes each chapter of his book with prayers that are models of form and substance. Yet we note that at the heart of his theology is a “theology of glory”: “In the mainstream of Catholic tradition—indeed in all Christian churches—there has always been a high appreciation of religious experience. The Old Testament concept of ‘the glory of God’ is generally linked to a deep experience of God’s holiness and to overwhelming joy in the experience of God’s presence.” From that premise Häring proceeds to an appreciation of “gatherings of pentecostals or charismatic renewal groups”: “they sing in tongues, and even though they have not previously practiced, all the voices join in one great harmony. This is a symbol of what shared prayer is in its deepest theological meaning.” And then he passes into syncretism: “I know a group of missionaries in Africa who are regularly invited into numerous Mohammedan villages to meditate with the inhabitants. They read a part of the Koran and, even more often, the parables of the gospel. All participate with great enthusiasm, expressing their thoughts and feelings, and praising the Lord together.” The “theology of glory” easily makes room for pneumaticism and syncretism. Classical Protestantism sees this as the burial of sovereign grace.

The other Roman Catholic books float between charismatic traditionalism and evangelicalism.

A. Charismatic-Traditional. Peter Hocken, priest and teacher of theology at Oscott College in England, is a judicious charismatic who carefully integrates charismatic impulses into liturgical and disciplined outlines. His Prayer, A Gift of Life (Paulist, 126 pp., $3.95) is a well-written corrective to some charismatic extremes. He notes: “It is an unfortunate though largely unintended consequence … that the impression is given that the Holy Spirit is a plus factor; you have ordinary Christian prayer, and then you have ‘prayer in the Spirit’ or charismatic prayer.”

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A curious book is Drugs and the Life of Prayer (Eerdmans, 95 pp., $1.65 pb) by the chaplain of the Sorbonne, Jean-Claude Barreau. Intellectually it is on a par with the one by Ecclestone. Theologically it is in the tradition of the Roman Catholic mystics, is charismatic, and tends toward syncretism: “Even nonbelievers can have this sort of awakening, and so share in the experience of the spiritually-minded of whatever creed. For as we have said already, these techniques of awakening are not peculiar to Christianity. In Islamic circles, sufism, for example, devotes a lot of time to them.”

B. Charismatic-Evangelical. Two books that make much of the Protestant “praise” promoter Merlin Carothers, regrettably, are Healing of Memories (Paulist, 101 pp., $1.45 pb) by Dennis and Matthew Linn, both of whom are Jesuits, and Inner Healing (Paulist, 85 pp., $2.25 pb) by Michael Scanlan, president of St. Francis Seminary in Pennsylvania. Actually, these two books are exceedingly more balanced than the works of Carothers. The authors do not regale the reader with fantastic stories of miraculous interventions. Their interest in Carothers mystifies me. However, their emphasis on the therapeutic value of prayer is well taken, and there is much good in both books.

A book whose content could pass for Protestant is Ralph Martin’s Hungry For God (Doubleday, 168 pp., $5.95). Martin is a major leader in the Catholic charismatic movement, is the editor of the New Covenant, and lives, with his wife and children, in the Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

This highly influential leader does not mention Carothers, but he refers glowingly to Campus Crusade, Bill Bright, Tozer, Hallesby, and C. S. Lewis. Martin’s understanding of salvation is noteworthy: “Prayer is not God’s primary way of coming to us. We are saved by faith in Jesus, and not by our efforts at prayer or at anything else, including morality. Many of us are in need not of new techniques or a new understanding of prayer, but of a reconsideration of where we stand as regards Jesus of Nazareth.”

Martin would appear to be in a class apart from the other authors of his communion. Yet we note, not syncretism, but an ecumenism of the Spirit: “Today I remain a Catholic, not through inertia, but by conviction, yet I have been immeasurably strengthened and formed by my contact with evangelical Protestantism and the twentieth-century pentecostal movement.” But an incident Martin relates leads directly to the heart of the matter for all Protestants. He tells about a friend who asked Kathryn Kuhlman to autograph one of her books. She wrote: “To Al, there’s more, there’s so much more. Kathryn.” That reminds me of Catherine Marshall’s recent book entitled Something More. Is there more, that which is called “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” and is manifested in ecstatic prayer, among other phenomena? What is there in evangelicalism that has led to but stopped short of this development, except for the charismatics? It is this more that Frederich Dale Bruner called the summa summarum of Pentecostalism in his seminal critique A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Protestants, descendants of the recoverers of the pristine freedom of justification by faith through grace, must be clear about where they stand at this historic nexus between Catholicism and Protestantism provided by the charismatic movement.

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