No one stares up at the northern lights thinking, Wow, aren’t I amazing? And we tend not to greet newborn babies with the words, Behold, a biological fluke born into a meaningless universe!
To be human is to pray. The very word prayer comes from the Latin word precarius. We pray because life is precarious. We pray because it is marvelous. And yet we don’t find prayer easy. We find it hard to concentrate. We don’t know what to say. We long for stillness. We need to hear God’s voice, to cry out for miracles. We carry profound questions about unanswered prayer. We need a little help.
After twenty years leading a nonstop prayer movement (and making an embarrassing number of mistakes along the way), it seemed like the right time to condense all that we’d learned into “a simple guide for normal people.” How to Pray is a simple guide in that it’s a basic introduction to a vast subject, covering the full menu of prayer from intercession and contemplation to spiritual warfare. (So many Christians and even entire denominations limit themselves to just one or two aspects of prayer.) And it’s aimed at normal people—those who are new to faith, or who’ve been around the block a few times but could use a little help. It’s not for Jedi prayer warriors, Trappist monks, and those with doctoral degrees in theology.
One of the really exciting aspects of the book is the way that it ties in with the popular Prayer Course (www.prayercourse.org), a free series of videos and Bible studies for small groups and churches journeying through the Lord’s Prayer. This course has already been downloaded more than a million times. How to Pray can either be read on its own to awaken personal devotion or used by churches to raise the level of prayer throughout the congregation.
Nicky Gumbel, the pioneer of the Alpha course who kindly wrote the foreword to How to Pray, also wrote a daily devotional called Bible in One Year, which is also available as a podcast. “How to Pray” is the single most downloaded episode every single year by Nicky’s two million users. How do I pray? really is the question people are asking more than any other.
It is also an ancient question. It was two thousand years ago that the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). This, they realized, was the key to everything else in their Master’s ministry. And he didn’t criticize them for needing help; he responded wholeheartedly by giving them the greatest prayer of all time—the Lord’s Prayer. It provides the structure for this book, alongside a simple, memorable acronym: P.R.A.Y.—Pause, Rejoice, Ask,and Yield.
Twenty years ago I admitted to Jesus that I struggled with prayer. Since then he has brought me on a wonderful journey of discovery into the heart and soul of life itself. For me this isn’t just another book about prayer; it’s my life’s work born out of two decades of continual prayer in more than half the nations on earth.