Book Review: Enjoy Your Prayer Life, Michael Reeves
Michael Reeves. Enjoy Your Prayer Life. 10Publishing, Leyland, England. 2014. 48 pages.
I don’t know about you, but I love little books that say a whole lot in just a few words. To add to that, I love books that quickly help me in times of need. That’s exactly why I love Michael Reeves’ small book Enjoy Your Prayer Life. Judging by the title, you might assume Reeves is simply offering helpful tips on how to pray more with the smallest amount of effort on your part.
But if that’s what you expect from this little book, you are wrong.
Reeves has not written a book to guilt trip his readers, but to help people truly understand and enjoy prayer. In other words, Enjoy Your Prayer Life is not a “how to pray” book. Instead, Reeves examines prayer in such a profound yet simple way that you’ll find yourself wanting to pray immediately after putting it down. And here’s the thing, the book can be read in less than an hour. So, if you’re a busy pastor like me, and don’t have much time to add another 250-page “must-read” theology book to the list, then this book is for you.
Reeves examines prayer in 2 parts. First, he diagnoses a problem in the life of the Church. Second, he takes us into the word of God to examine prayer, exploring how the Bible teaches us to pursue intimacy with God.
You may not know it, but there is a massive problem with prayer in the life of the church, especially in the West. Reeves explains, “it seems even church leaders are not communing with God much. How healthy can their churches or fellowship groups be if this is the case? . . . To put it bluntly, if they are not enjoying communion with God, then they are selling a product they don’t really believe in” (9).
Reeves explains we are all failures in some sense when it comes to prayer. We all fall short. We all, in our pride, set God aside. He adds, “In one sense your prayer life is disgustingly revealing: it does reveal who you really are” (13). So what should we do? The wrong solution is simply “do more.” We don’t want to turn prayer into a burdensome load—something which misses the entire point of prayer itself.
According to Reeves, we need to “think first about what prayer is” (11). He highlights a quote from John Calvin, that prayer is “the chief exercise of faith.” In other words, prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. This also means that prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God” (12). If this is the case, then “how-to” books on prayer will always fall short of addressing the real problem—the heart.
PRAYER IN THE WORD OF GOD
So what’s the antidote to the problem of prayerlessness? “Remember, prayer is about faith. So, where does faith come from? It comes from hearing the word of God” (17). If Christians want real help in their prayer lives, then the Christian must consistently be in the Word of God, driving us to the God of the Word. God’s word points us to Christ and the Gospel, by whom we gain redemption, forgiveness, identity, and reconciliation with our holy God.
It is the word of God, the gracious message of Christ, that awakens faith and so prayer—and so that must be the basic shape of our everyday communion with God. We need to set Christ before ourselves. That is, we hear the word of Christ in Scripture, in song, through each other and by reminding ourselves as we praise him. We should long that our eyes might be opened to see the beauty of the Lord and that we might be drawn afresh to want him—and then prayer is simply the articulation of our heart’s response. (17–18)
Prayer, or the lack of it, is always tethered to the gospel.
In Christ, we share in the riches of the Son and we too can have a real, enjoyable relationship with the Father. Reeves says, “To know you are a beloved child of God protects you from thinking of prayer as a ladder to God or an exercise by which you work your way into his favor. Prayer doesn’t make you more accepted. Instead, prayer is growing in the appreciation of what you have been given” (26).
Reeves motivates prayer by pointing to the heart of Christ. Christians often get the prayer equation backwards, thinking that our prayer lives gain us merit with God. As a result, when we’re faced with the reality of our prayerlessness, we often feel guilty or get depressed.
Salvation, however, is completely dependent on God, and the Christian life is no different. As Reeves explains “Prayer . . . is enjoying the care of a powerful Father, instead of being left to a frightening loneliness where everything is all down to you. Prayer is the antithesis of self-dependence” (34).
Every year dozens of books get published teaching Christians how to “get stuff done.” But these resources often miss the point. Enjoy Your Prayer Life cuts to the heart. Reeves delivers a refreshing wave of God’s goodness and faithfulness—meditations which will incline our heart to pray.
If you are having trouble in your prayer life, this book will drive you to the Word and to the God who hears His children.