Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I’m lucky enough to be on SPCK’s ‘blog reviewer’ program, which means from time to time they send me some tasty goodies to read and review. The great thing is that its non-incentivised, so I can write an honest review based on what I think! This means I can rave about books – like Tom Wright’s “How God Became King”, and Gordon Temple and Lin Balls “Enabling Church”- or be honest about ones I don’t agree with, like Adrian Thatcher’s “Making Sense of Sex”. Today, though, I’m review one that I loved. Its a new offering from Tom Wright, “New Testament Prayer for Everyone”.
Readers will know that I am quite a fan of Wright, and also quite like his “For Everyone” series of New Testament Commentaries. There are also Old Testament ones, written by John Goldingay, such as “1 and 2 Chronicles for Everyone” that I reviewed a while ago. Wright has recently grown and expanded the “For Everyone” ‘brand’, to introduce some excellent “For Everyone Bible Study Guides”. I reviewed some of these before, three in fact, and will be reviewing the latest on Revelation soon. Today, though, I’m looking at a more specific and practical part of the FE empire; a book specifically on prayer. Wright is clearly a man of prayer and great devotion – as I’ve seen in reading through and using his “Twelve Months of Sundays” – and this shines through in this excellent new book.
The premise of this book is relatively simple. New Testament Scholar offers brief thought on various prayers in New Testament. The simplicity is powerful – the resulting prayers and observations profound. One of the first prayers (in the opening section, “The Teaching of Jesus” is The Lords Prayer. Wright suggests that we pray for five things when we pray this prayer, and I loved his observation on forgiveness;
“Fifth, we pray for forgiveness. Unlike some religions, in which every single action carries eternal and unbreakable consequences, at the heart of Judaism and Christianity lies the belief that, though human actions matter very deeply, forgiveness is possible and through God’s love can become actual”
This is a powerful observation, bringing prayer back to the Cross, and re-emphasising the need for forgiveness.
In a later section of the book, we are taken through the prayers that Jesus prayed. In John 17:1-8, Jesus prays a big prayer, that Wright calls “Glorify the Son”. This is a prayer that demonstrated Jesus’ self-awareness of his own divinity (as Wright defends in dialogue with Marcus Borg in “The Meaning of Jesus”), and Wright expounds it beautifully. The passionate orthodoxy of the author of this little book on praying in and with the New Testament is clear. Another great section of this book are the “Prayers of Paul”. In the prayer of Ephesians 1:16-19, here called “Knowing the Power of the King“, Wright again makes a pertinent observation; “Far too many Christians today, and, one suspects, in Paul’s day, are quite unaware that this power is there and is available“. Amen.
I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. At just over 100 pages, it is an excellent primer on praying as the Early Church did, and provides a subtle link between basic bible study, prayer, and deeper bible study. Readers of the “For Everyone” bible commentaries will see hints and chunks of repetition, but as a gathering of New Testament thoughts on prayer, this is brilliant. I believe it would be a useful book for new Christians and old Christians alike, as it is refreshing, biblical and focused on Jesus.