Book: Prayer by Phillip Yancey

This book was recommended as a good read on prayer but didn’t live up to expectations.

Before I wrote these notes on it I did some searching and it’s hard to find a bad review of the book. And I have to say that, despite the slow start to it, the book did grow on me as I read it, and it did inspire me to pray more and differently. But it was with relief that I finished it. It was just REALLY hard going.

This is probably more a reflection on me than on the book. Let me explain…

Much as my writing is very long and waffly, I like my reading to be concise and to the point. I like stories and illustrations, but they should help make the point rather than clog up the book and make it slow going and repetitive. Plus, I read non-fiction books like this slowly and carefully, taking everything in, underlining what’s important, so I don’t need the same point to be made several times.

You can probably work out that I thought that this book was too heavy on anecdotes, too light on simple, to-the-point theology, and too repetitive. The book IS a meandering journey rather than a write up of the destination. It’s a discussion rather than a sermon.

In a book like this it is sometimes important to reinforce a point but, particularly in the early chapters, I found Yancey going round in circles without making much real progress. After reading about a third of it I wondered what I was going to get from it other than lots of questions and fairly stock answers.

I found later chapters were a bit more practical and inspiring and Yancey’s honesty and openness about his struggles with prayer really make the book. By the end I has the feeling that he has somehow gained some mastery of the topic and he had managed to share it with me. I just wish it hadn’t taken him so many words to do it.

I didn’t find many points to disagree on, though Yancey’s theology is obviously very open. He’s not afraid to tackle the difficult questions, and not afraid to leave you without a firm answer either.

I’d like to see an edited version distilling his findings into a much shorter work. But worth reading if you have the time.