BOOK REVIEW ~ Prayer: A Biblical Perspective by Eric J. Alexander
Prayer: A Biblical Perspective by Eric J. Alexander. Banner of Truth. 106 pages. 2012.
Eric Alexander is a wonderful preacher who I was blessed to hear at a few theology conferences in the past. His chief concern in this short book is to remind Christians that prayer is fundamental, and not supplemental, both in the individual and in the corporate lives of God’s people. This book has the feel of individual sermons that were delivered on prayer put into book form.
Alexander writes that because prayer defies definition, the Bible doesn’t give us a comprehensive definition of prayer. Because the reader would like a definition however, he uses the words of John Calvin, who in his commentary on Isaiah says, ‘Prayer is nothing else than the opening up of our heart before God’.
Alexander shares the following elements of true prayer from the scriptures:
- Entering into God’s presence through the access obtained for us in Christ’s sacrificial death.
- Worshiping and adoring God for all that he is.
- Praising and thanking God for all that he does.
- Humbling ourselves before God because of what we are, and confessing our sin and failure.
- Supplicating at God’s throne and petitioning him for the good things for which we are totally dependent on him.
- Intercession for others.
In this book, Alexander looks at a number of examples of prayer in scripture, such as:
- Jesus teaching the disciples about prayer. (Matthew 6). Alexander writes that despite us calling this the “Lord’s Prayer”, this is not a prayer that Jesus ever prayed, or indeed could pray. The prayer is not intended to be repeated verbatim by us. It is rather a pattern for prayer, to teach us to pray ourselves.
- Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-12). Alexander writes “Many students of the Sermon on the Mount have wondered whether we are intended to see a distinction between these three precepts—ask, seek, knock—or whether we should think of them as just a repetition of the same idea. Personally, I do not think they are a mere repetition. More likely they seem to be an intensification with a different focus”.
- The priority of the Apostles (Acts 6:3-4). Alexander writes that if we are going to be apostolic in the pattern of our church life, we need to adopt the same priorities they had, devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. Alexander writes that “It is my deepest conviction that God is calling his church in the twenty-first century to re-echo this holy determination of the first century apostles.”
- The prayer life of Paul. Alexander states that the two dominant features of Paul’s ministry were prayer and preaching. He would put them in that order because of the apostolic priorities in Acts 6:4.
- The prayer of a penitent Sinner (Psalm 51). This psalm touches upon mercy, cleansing, sin, forgiveness and restoration.
- Thirsting for God (Psalm 63). There are several psalms which express in similar terms the psalmist’s thirst for God. Alexander writes that the ultimate reason for prayerlessness is a lack of desire for God.
- The Intercessory Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Alexander writes that perhaps the most convincing evidence of how deeply God desires that we should learn to pray, is that all three persons of the Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—combine together to persuade us to take up the ministry of prayer.
- Corporate Prayer. Prayer is the duty of the church corporately, not just of Christians individually. Alexander sees it highly significant that today one of the chief marks of the church’s malaise is the poverty of prayer meetings in the evangelical churches of the western world.
Alexander then looks at difficulties related to prayer, breaking them down into the categories of common, spiritual and practical difficulties.
He ends the book with an epilogue on prayer and preaching. He writes that prayer and preaching belong together in the mind and wisdom and purpose of God. The prayerless preacher is a contradiction in terms, as is the prayerless church.
Although short, this is an excellent book on prayer and highly recommended.
- Family Traditions. Andy Andrews released a new and free e-book called Family Traditions: Christmas Edition). He wrote it to help us get more out of the holiday season this year.
- Book Briefs. Kevin DeYoung looks at a few new book releases.
- On My Shelf: Life and Books with Randy Alcorn. Randy Alcorn some of his favorite books with Ivan Mesa of the Gospel Coalition.
- Book Review: Transforming Homosexuality. Eric Davis reviews Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk and Heath Lambert. He writes that the book “is a needed work in this hour of history. Counselors will find it helpful for counselees, pastors and teachers will benefit from the clarity and insight given for preaching and teaching, Christians will be better equipped to interact intelligently, biblically, and lovingly with the world around us, and those of differing spiritual persuasions will be lovingly and truthfully guided to the true hope of Christ.”
- New and Notable Books. Tim Challies looks at some new books of interest.
- 5 Best Books on Stewardship and Generosity. The Church Leaders “Best Books” series is their way of helping leaders find, read, and recommend books on a variety of important topics related to ministry and the Christian life. Chris Brown recommends his 5 favorite books on stewardship and generosity, three of which I’ve read (those by Dave Ramsey and Randy Alcorn).
- 10 Things to Know about The Valley of Vision Prayer Book. Our friend Kevin Halloran offers these ten helpful things about Arthur Bennett’s book The Valley of Vision, a wonderful book I use for devotional reading.
- Parables. Tim Challies reviews John MacArthur’s new book Parables, calling it “a helpful, enjoyable, powerful book.”
- Top Ten God Exalting Books. Jordan Standridge writes “Here are some books to help us fight against our tendency to exalt ourselves and minimize God’s glory. These books have a Theocentric view of the Bible. Some of these I’ve read, others were suggestions from other pastors.”
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB
Won’t you read along with us?
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at
Chapter 12: The Christian and Persecution
- The best way of putting it, therefore, would be to say that, whereas all the others have been a direct description, this (Beatitude) is indirect. ‘This is what is going to happen to you because you are a Christian’, says Christ.
- I do not think you will ever find the biblical doctrines of sin and the world put more perfectly or precisely anywhere in Scripture than in just these two Beatitudes-‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, and `Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake’. If a Christian man is a peacemaker this is what happens to him.
- There is certainly no Beatitude that has been so frequently misunderstood and misapplied. Therefore we must approach it with great circumspection and care.
- There are Christian people who are being actively and bitterly persecuted in many countries at this very moment, and there may well be a strong case for saying that this may be the most important verse in your life and mine.
- What, then, does this Beatitude mean? Let me put it like this. Being righteous, practicing righteousness, really means being like the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore they are blessed who are persecuted for being like Him. What is more, those who are like Him always will be persecuted.
- By whom are the righteous persecuted? You will find as you go through the Scriptures, and as you study the history of the Church, that the persecution is not confined to the world. Some of the most grievous persecution has been suffered by the righteous at the hands of the Church herself, and at the hands of religious people. It has often come from nominal Christians.
- Obviously, then, we can draw certain conclusions from all this. For one thing, it tells us a great deal about our ideas concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If our conception of Him is such that He can be admired and applauded by the non-Christian, we have a wrong view of Him.
- That leads to the second conclusion. This Beatitude tests our ideas as to what the Christian is.
- And yet is not our idea of what we call the perfect Christian nearly always that he is a nice, popular man who never offends anybody, and is so easy to get on with? But if this Beatitude is true, that is not the real Christian, because the real Christian is a man who is not praised by everybody. They did not praise our Lord, and they will never praise the man who is like Him.
- So I draw my next deduction. It concerns the natural, unregenerate man, and it is this. The natural mind, as Paul says, `is enmity against God’. Though he talks about God, he really hates God. And when the Son of God came on earth he hated and crucified Him. And that is the attitude of the world towards Him now.
- This leads to the last deduction, which is that the new birth is an absolute necessity before anybody can become a Christian.
- Finally, let us ask ourselves this question: Do we know what it is to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake?
- If ever you find yourself persecuted for Christ and for righteousness’ sake, you have in a sense got the final proof of the fact that you are a Christian, that you are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.