It’s often said that prayer is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. When you stop and think about it, talking to God, well, it’s an incredible claim.
Of course some would say that’s just deluded. Maybe others would call it egotistical or individualistic. Others still (and perhaps especially those coming from a religious perspective) might label such a definition as offensively simple.
Of course Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 seem to kick some of that into touch. He teaches us to pray, saying “Our Father…”. One of the outrageous claims of Christianity is that it’s possible for us (yes, even messed up, self-obsessed, apathetic us) to approach the God of the Universe as a loving Father, if we’ve become united with the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, through faith.
And yet even when the stupendous, smack-between-the-eyes reality of that hits you afresh, sometimes with prayer we just don’t know where to start. Our personal prayers can become dry. We suffer from mental drift. Perhaps it all seems slightly repetitive.
That’s why the ‘5 Things to Pray For Your Church’ series seems so brilliant. It’s both so simple and yet so obvious, and yet there’s not heaps of books like it.
Sure, there’s books like the Valley of Vision, which serve you up with some meaty pre-written prayers to ‘pray along’ with. Likewise, I’ve been really helped by Andrew Case’s Water of the Word which is a collection of prayers particularly for husbands. And then there’s Don Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which I found to be eye-opening in its challenge to pray in line with God’s own purposes and promises in Scripture. But with this book, you’re actually given a guiding day-by-day hand to help you think about what it is you could pray. Author Rachel Jones does this by modelling a pattern of listening to God’s word and then suggesting things to speak back to God in response. It is praying saturated in Scripture, yet nonetheless heartfelt and earthed.
The format of the series is that on each double-page Rachel focuses on a particular passage, which in turn provides an overall theme. In this book these are all related to health of a church (e.g. using our gifts, or holding to truth, or giving generously). Rachel then unpacks each passage/theme into 5 short pray-able nuggets (hence the title!). Rather than putting these in the form of verbatim prayers, these take the form of a brief paragraph in which Rachel provides some ideas (helpfully often quite specific) of what it might look like to pray in line with that particular Bible passage. Personally, I like that because it still leaves it up to me to phrase and express my prayer to God according to my own personality and vocabulary. You could even use a journal to do this if you’re that kind of person!
And though the book is wonderfully small and thin, it isn’t one you’ll want to finish quickly. That’s not the point. Neither is it an in-depth explanation of prayer (although Carl Laferton’s brief introduction is pretty handy). It’s more of a guidebook, to be taken slowly, a resource to accompany you as you get on with praying.
Practically, given there’s 21 of these passages/themes, I guess an obvious way to use this resource would be to take one passage/theme per week, and then from Monday to Friday to read one of the 5 ‘nuggets’, spending a couple of minutes each day praying for your church. There’s even space on each double-page to jot down particular people on your mind that week. And, honestly, if you did that each week for twenty-one weeks then I’m pretty confident you won’t be regretting parting with the very affordable £2.69 that it currently costs to get your hands on it. Not only that, but we trust God will have answered those prayers according to his purposes too!
So if you feel like your prayer life could do with a bit of support, a bit of inspiration or input, then you’ve only got the price of a pint to lose: get this book and give it a go. I’d imagine it would also be great to give away to a church small group, or perhaps to some of the leaders in your church as they consider what it looks like to partner in prayer for the church.
And when your twenty-one weeks are up (or however you manage it), Rachel has also written ‘5 Things to Pray for the People you Love’, as part of the same series, so you don’t have to stop there!
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!