Rating: 5 out of 5
I first started reading Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church by John Onwuchekwa on a Sunday morning while our pastor was preaching. For the record, I wasn’t in the sanctuary and I couldn’t hear his sermon. I was a door greeter that Sunday and, during the slow times of door greeting, I prefer reading over staring out the window and watching the grass grow—especially during the middle of winter.
Unfortunately I forgot to bring the book that I had planned to bring. As I scrambled to find something to read besides a short Gospel tract, I saw a few copies of this book in our foyer. Our church had given away copies of this book to our congregation as a Christmas gift in 2019, and there were some extra copies laying around. So I was thankful that there was something within reach that was going to take me more than 30 seconds to read.
Once I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down. And if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t have.
When you think about a book on prayer, you think about books explaining individual prayer. And if you go to the Christian section of the book store, (or the online book store), that’s exactly what you’ll find. Books upon books about how to pray during your quiet time, how to pray back a Scripture passage, how to pray a psalm, how to pray throughout your day, and so on.
But this book is different. This book focuses on prayer in a group, not as an individual.
And I think that’s an aspect of prayer that we often take for granted.
When we think of a corporate worship service, we think of singing and a sermon. Depending on your church, there might be a greeting time or a drama skit. But prayer? Sure, there might be one after the sermon, and maybe one here and there during the service, but I doubt prayer is the highlight of the service (if it’s there at all).
The fact is that our churches aren’t characterized by prayer. They’re characterized by the music, the sermon, the activities, and the amenities that we’ve developed to keep people plugged into the church. Prayer is sprinkled on top of everything else, but it definitely isn’t what characterizes everything else. Prayer is regarded as so unimportant that fewer and fewer churches each year have regularly held prayer meetings because people don’t come.
When we don’t pray, or when our prayers are shallow, we really don’t believe in a God who can do very much and that we can do most of it without him. But is that a proper, or even healthy, view of God? This book reminds us of who the Christian God is and why it is important to communicate with him. It also helps us with how to properly communicate with him—not by saying certain words—but by seeing God for who he really is.
“We explore the wonder of who God is during our prayer of adoration. We embrace the mercy he provides during our prayer of confession. We relfect on all he’s done for us during our prayer of thanksgiving. We lean on him and feel his strength during our prayer of supplication. By including these prayers in our Sunday service, we display the width and depth of our relationship with God.”
When we grow in prayer, we grow closer to God. And that’s the whole point of being a Christian. It’s not about the dos and do-nots, it’s about Who we follow, Who we trust, Who we worship, and Who we talk to. He is the object of our faith and the centerpiece of our lives.
Onwuchekwa doesn’t only talk about prayer, but also discusses how to apply it. After all, knowing how to pray doesn’t do very much good if you don’t actually do it. He makes suggestions and recommendations to help improve the prayer life as an individual, but also as a church. However, that doesn’t mean that everything that he recommends will be possible for all situations. Every church is different, so every need is different. But every one (the church and the individual) needs prayer.
I loved this book. It has quickly and easily become one of my favorites. It’s not a very long book and it’s very easy to understand, which makes a great book for every church and everyone who attends the church. My church gave this book out as a gift, and I would heartily recommend that any church who can afford it to do the same. At the very least, put it in a church library. If your church doesn’t have a church library, put it in your personal library. It’s well worth it.
As good as this book is, though, it still doesn’t replace other great books on individual prayer, but it fills a hole that I didn’t realize existed before. This is a much needed book for our time and it has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the church and on our world.