Recently I received a review copy of a book which has become one of my Christmas gifts (for a certain person which I will not reveal!). In the spirit of a renewed interest in The Book of Common Prayer, Arthur A. R. Nelson has released what I think should sit on every pastor’s bookshelf…or in their pocket due to it’s convenient size. The book is entitled A Book of Prayers (IVP: 2012).
The prayers are thought out, well constructed, and–most importantly–relevant for a variety of life stages. Thus, any pastor, counselor, mentor, or just plain ordinary everyday Christian will find it useful. The prayers fall under the following headings:
- Prayer for the Inner Life
- Prayer for Times of Grief
- Prayer for Times of Difficulty
- Prayer for Ongoing Illness
- Prayer for Healing
- Prayer for Marriage
- Prayer for Parents and Children
- Prayer for Celebrations
- Prayer for Home and Church
- Prayer for the Larger World
- Prayer for the Year’s Seasons
- Praying With the Scriptures
Each of these, then, have subset prayers which cover all sorts of daily struggles and situations. We’re talking for those who have been robbed, for one going through a divorce, for the passing of an infant, for a psychotic patient, for one with HIV or AIDS, being released from prison, childbirth, completion of a house building project, etc. In other words, these prayers are designed to help those who feel called to prayer but struggle to find the words–something which most of us have probably encountered.
The idea of a “book” of prayers may appear to some as “high church”, but this probably reflects more or less of an individualized attitude which leaves out the great community which the Church is. We are called to pray for one another and with one another. This book, then, reflects that corporate sense of prayer which we need to adopt for openly.
There is a slight downside to the book in its authorship. Nelson has five decades of pastoral ministry, so the prayers are designed and written from experience. But there is a benefit to having a church body or a community or a group of individuals that oversee such a project. The same unease that I feel with Nelson’s project is the same unease that I feel when someone like Eugene Peterson or N.T. Wright give us their own translations of Scripture…I have to ask, “Why is this an individual thing?” But, at the same time, these individual projects come from those who know it well. N.T. Wright is probably the best NT scholar working today. Eugene Peterson has the benefit of being a leading pastor and a scholar for decades. And Nelson’s work reflects the same level of experience…As a veteran minister, “a” (notice the indefinite article) book of prayers is a result of his experiences. Take it or leave it, but it may serve as a helpful tool for those who just need to find those right words.