Another book review on prayer, this time a gem from Ken Wilson, a Vineyard Pastor who’s book ‘Empowered Evangelicals‘ (co-authored with Rich Nathan) was pivotal as I explored the Vineyard. I’m glad to be reviewing this book today, as it brings a unique perspective on a vital subject, written with Ken’s characteristic wit and readability.
There is a fascinating thesis behind this book – namely that prayer can be improved and experienced best when we realise that our brain is, in Ken’s enticing words on the cover, ‘wired and waiting to pray in new ways, enabled by a fresh understanding of some ancient prayer disciplines‘. In conversation with a myriad of different bits of the Christian prayer tradition, Ken leads us to think about how we might engage in prayer, and think about doing so as well as doing so.
The first part of the book is a masterclass in useful introduction, as Ken calmly unpacks the somewhat intriguing title and premise of this book. We begin in chapter 1, ‘You Are Mystically Wired‘, where the author unpacks what he means by saying that you are something quite specific! This is helpfully complement by the second chapter, ‘You Are Mystically Challenged‘, which is a concept I personally identify with. Ken’s understanding of this notion, aided by years of pastoral ministry, was something I found very nourishing and encouraging. The third chapter, ‘The Year of Praying Differently‘ begins, as often such tales do, with the death of someone close to the author, in this case Ken’s father. Ken writes the poignant phrase, which acts as an intriguing doorway to the chapter; “I was too weary to pray in the accustomed ways, which were for me, verbally, mentally, conversationally, and charismatically“. The final chapter of the first section is titled with a question, ‘Where Do We Go When We Pray?‘, and is a really interesting look at the idea of where prayer can take us, and the way that prayer relates us and our lives to something ‘more’.
The book then shifts gear, with the tantilizing subtitle, ‘Exploring New Realms in Prayer‘. Thankfully, this isn’t some crazy New-Age discussion of entering Nirvana or exploring Middle Earth (Though the latter would be fun…) but instead Ken introducing the reader calmly and carefully to new ways and bits and bobs of praying. There are six chapters in this section, but for the most helpful were the final three, ‘In Depth: Dialing Down to Make Space for God‘ (where Ken most blatantly shows his Vineyard heritage!), ‘Eyes Open: With Jesus in the Outdoor Cathedral‘ (where the idea of meeting God in creation is helpfully expounded as being something Jesus-focused, rather than pagan), and finally ‘Costly: Intimacy and the Fire of Divine Love‘. The book closes with an epilogue, and then an appendix of Ten Practices – a decalogue which contains some interesting (and, perhaps, for some, provocative) ideas to poke us into praying more.
This is a different book on prayer than many I have reviewed on this blog – but it is a powerful and helpful one. Part of this comes from Ken’s thesis, part from his story, part from the depth and breadth of his thinking here. Overall, though, this is a very interesting and, dare I say it, unique book on prayer. I’d recommend it to people wanting something different from the classics, and it is certainly a book that is a cut above the norm of charismatic/evangelical books on prayer.