The Heart of Prayer, by Jerram Barrs

I picked up Jerram Barrs’ new book at the L’Abri conference called The Heart of Prayer and wanted to write a little bit about it. It intrigued me for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s Jerram, so of course it’s going to be good! 2. Prayer is something that I feel like I continually fall short in, and for reasons that I don’t always know. When I’m honest with myself, I can see that this is an enormous weakness in my life. I for sure can stand to learn more about prayer–I want to do something about this sense of “poverty in my prayer life.”

Jerram writes in such a way that isn’t condemning, but is still voicing truth in every sentence. He continually shows Jesus’ teaching and examples for us in a way that is so encouraging, and he provides questions at the end of each chapter for reflection.

Some of my favorite passages so far:

“Prayer is not a performance in which we are trying to prove something to God about our depth of theological understanding or our skills of eloquence. Nor is prayer a performance in which we seek to impress our fellow believers about these things. And prayer is certainly not a performance in which we are to appraise and applaud ourselves for theological acumen or verbal gymnastics. Prayer is talking to God; prayer is not about trying to feel better about ourselves” (18).

“The truth is that the New Testament teaches us that we are called to walk by faith now rather than by sight, and so we must be content with not always, or with only rarely, or maybe even not at all, having intense experiences of the Lord’s presence (22).

“Prayer is our response to God, the God who graciously invites us to come to him with our thanksgiving and requests. He is never indebted to us; we are always indebted to him. We cannot manipulate him into a position where we can make him answer us–no matter how much time, how much emotional energy, how much spiritual fervor, or how much frequency of prayer we offer to him. We are always beggars who are completely dependent on his generous kindness to us. We are not those who can bargain with him on the basis of our perceived spiritual power or faithfulness” (22-23).

“We should remember that the Lord wants us to be specific, for it is only as we face up to the practical reality of our failing to love God and to love our neighbor that we begin to see the seriousness of our sins” (34).

“When we start praying for people, we must begin to stop hating them!” (35)

“If we actually succeed in observing the disciplines, and so increase the time, frequency, and passion of our prayers, there is the danger of spiritual pride. We easily begin to believe that we know God better, that our relationship with him is becoming deeper, and perhaps even that he loves us more because we are doing well at our devotions” (60).

“Or if, on the other hand, we find ourselves failing at the disciplines, we become miserable. We become confused and depressed about the poor state of our devotional lives. We are tempted to believe that God loves us less because of our weak prayer lives” (61).

“He is eager to hear us tell him that we are full of gladness and joy because of the beauty of spring, because of the glory of a fall day, or because of the splendor of a night sky. He wants praise to burst out in our prayers and songs to overflow from our hearts (prayers and songs that no one hears but him) because we are so pleased to be loved and forgiven by him. He wants us to be so full of wonder and delight that we pray secretly without the knowledge of others in our household. He wants us to pray when we are in bed lying awake, when we are washing the dishes, when we are in the yard weeding the flowers, when we are driving our cars, when we are working around the house” (70).

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About Colleen Kelly

I graduated from Mizzou in May '09 with an English degree and joined staff with Veritas soon after. I'm originally from St. Louis, but love living in Columbia. Things I love: reading (anything and everything), walking, being outside, coffee, conversation, theology, exploring, saturdays, and adventures.
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