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Why can prayer be so hard? Not only is the command to cast all our anxieties on God clear and simple, but Jesus himself gives us a ready-made prayer. So, why the struggles and how do we overcome them and pray?

Here are two book that can help – one for adults and teens, the other for children and families. What I appreciate about both books is that they ground the reality and struggle of prayer in Genesis 1-3. They each reminds us how, as God’s image bearers, we were made to bring God’s heavenly rule to earth as his co-workers. However, by grasping for rule apart from God, our relationship with, and prayers to God, are terribly disfigured.

Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools

An invitation to the wonder and mystery of prayer
Tyler Staton (for 15yo+)

Staton, a seasoned pray-er, invites us to regular, daily prayer as an act of ‘rebellious fidelity’ (203) in a world of ‘contested space’ (62). Throughout, he walks alongside us, calling us to appreciate the wonder and mystery of prayer, and guiding us in its practice.

He starts by diagnosing why we don’t pray by exploring the fears and distractions that drive us from persistence to either procrastination or paralysis. Fears like being let down; hearing ‘no,’ or worse, silence; or discovering that I’m the reason he won’t listen. 

To address these fears, he takes us on a tour of the Lord’s prayer, bracketed by reflections on the poison of hurry and the need for endurance. He calls us to create unhurried space and silence to adore God as he truly is. For, by remembering who God is, the immense creator who cares for little me and allows me to approach him as Father, we remember who we are, his precious children. 

The real gold in this book is the reminder that simple, regular prayers really do make a difference in the world, but we may have to persist – that’s the wonder and the mystery.  

Like me, you may not agree with everything he says. For instance, at times he adopts ancient practices seemingly uncritically – though, to be fair, he often goes on to qualify them. For example, when he first encourages the practice of silence, it seems to allow for fresh revelation from God apart from the scriptures, yet he goes on to qualify this as space to adore God and invite him to search us so we may know and confess our sin. His reflections would have also been more biblically substantiated from engagement with other key biblical prayers, such as those of Paul. 

Nevertheless, this book is a warm, clear and accessible encouragement to recover regular, biblical prayer as an essential ingredient in God’s continual work in our lives and the world for his name’s sake. His mix of stories, personal experience, early church tradition, and practical and realistic wisdom – all grounded in biblical exposition – provides a wise and solid arm around the shoulder to help us persevere in prayer.

Where to buy:

Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer

A true story of how you can talk with God
By Laura Wifler, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (for 3yo+)

More briefly, this book is a short, illustrated, biblical theology of prayer. As mentioned above, it grounds prayer in our created identity, made to walk with God in the garden, and goes on to show how our prayers lives are ultimately ruined and disfigured by the fall, causing us to doubt God in our prayer, or give up entirely. 

As it journeys through the biblical story, it shows us the prayers of God’s people, in all their wonderful variety: from praise and thanksgiving, to lament, confession, and petition. These prayers are all given concrete expressions in the life of children or early teens later in the book. 

It also shows how our experience of prayer is rooted in the work of Jesus. His life, death, resurrection and ascension restore our relationship with God and open the way for us to call on him as Father in a taste of intimacy that is to come. 

This is a great book that grounds our children and families in the what, where, why, and how of prayer, and so it is a great book to help your family learn to pray.  

Where to buy:

Callan Pritchard
Associate Minister