How is your prayer life? This is a question that can bring up feelings of shame and guilt. We often do not spend enough time in prayer or we forget to pray. Sometimes we might feel like God is not listening to us and other times we feel like we are talking to ourselves. We might think we need just the right words for God to listen to us. Prayer is not a skill we master but a practice that we grow in throughout our entire lives.
A new book to help us grow in our prayer life was released in March 2021 called, “Where Prayer Becomes Real: How Honesty with God Transforms Your Soul” by Kyle Strobel and John Coe. In the opening chapter of the book Kyle Strobel shares what he learned about prayer from John Coe, “prayer is not a place to be good, it is a place to be honest.” This is a major theme of the book that helps us to think about how we are relating to the Lord when we pray. This theme of being “good” addresses performing in prayer instead of relating to God.
The authors split this book into two parts, the first part addressed our beliefs about prayer and the second part invited the reader to pray.
In the first part of the book, the authors did a great job of showing how prayer reveals our hearts. I have studied a lot on the heart in Scripture, but I have not considered the connection of our hearts to prayer. The authors help us to see that as we pray, we reveal what we believe about God and our lives. I would add that the failure to pray also reveals what we think about God and life.
In addressing honesty with prayer, Strobel talked about remaining sin and our prayer life. I think many believers struggle with remaining sin and how they relate to God. That is what is meant by not having to be good in prayer, in other words, we can bring our sin to the Lord in prayer and not feel rejected. There is often a disconnect in that we believe Christ died for our sins, but then we think Jesus is allergic (authors words) to our present sins. I have met countless people who feel Jesus was enough to save them from their past sins, but now it is up to them to be good, or God will be wrathful and bring upon his discipline. Strobel reminds us of God’s forgiving grace and mercy that we experience in prayer.
In the second part of the book the authors address how to pray. This is more to do with the form of prayer as they address the different forms of prayer in the Bible. They spend a chapter on how the book of Psalm can help us pray with honesty.
Another form of prayer they address is the prayer of examination. I thought they addressed this fairly by showing that self-examination was not an end to itself but was meant to be practiced in light of the gospel of Christ. Seeing our hearts does not lead us to despair but leads us to the grace and mercy of Christ. It is easy to end up on either extreme, with either morbid introspection or not taking remaining sin seriously.
Overall, this book encouraged my heart, and I would recommend it to others who want to grow in their prayer life. Prayer is a unique experience that each believer has with the Lord. There is always something to learn and grow in the lifelong pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ.