by the attic library

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

C.S. Lewis’s last book is a sane, brilliantly imaginative approach to the problems of prayer. Published posthumously, it still stayed on the best-seller lists for many weeks.

C.S. Lewis prompts the reader to re-examine how esoteric-sounding questions about the nature of reality impact day-to-day experience of prayer. He wrote in his book:

But however badly needed a good book on prayer is, I shall never try to write it. Two people on the foothills comparing notes in private are all very well. But in a book, one would inevitably seem to be attempting, not discussion, but instruction. And for me to offer the world instruction about prayer would be impudence. (Pg 61)

This is not a book of instruction, but it does offer nuggets of truth, and it prompts the reader to re-examine his/her fundamental belief in prayer. For example:

  • To think of our prayers as just ‘causes’ would suggest that the whole importance of petition prayer lay in the achievement of the thing asked for. But really, for our spiritual life, the ‘being taken into account’ or ‘considered’ matters more than the being granted. Religious people don’t talk about the results of prayer; they talk of the prayer being ‘answered’ or ‘heard’. They can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. In other words, our faith can survive many refusals if they are refusals and not mere disregards. But how would one reconcile with Matthew 21:22: ‘If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer?’
  • Regarding prayer, there exists on the Divine level a distinction with which we are very familiar with: that between the plan (or the main plan) and its unintended but unavoidable by-products. Whatever we do, even if it achieves its objectives, will also scatter round it a spray of consequences which were not its objectives at all. This is so even in private life. I throw out crumbs for the birds and provide, incidentally, a breakfast for the rats. The governing body of the college alters the time of dinner in hall; our objective being to let the servants get home earlier. But by doing so we alter the daily pattern of life for every undergraduate. To some, the new arrangement will be a convenience, to others the reverse. But we had no special favour for the first lot and no spite against the second. Our arrangement drags these unforeseen and undesired consequences after it. We can’t help this. The issue here is: does God function in this manner when answering our prayers?

This book also offers thought provoking insights into human nature and how it affects one’s prayer life. For example:

  • Don’t you find that, if you keep your mind fixed upon God, you will automatically think of the person you are praying for; but that there is no tendency for it to work the other way around?
  • Our prayers for others flow more easily than those we offer on our own behalf. If I pray that you may be given grace to withstand your besetting sin, all the work has to be done by God and you. If I pray for my besetting sin, there will be work for me. One sometimes fights shy of admitting an act to be a sin for this very reason.
  • Apart from God we cannot speak at all. There are no words not derived from the Word, no acts not derived from Him who is perfect, and every sin is therefore the distortion of an energy breathed into us – an energy which, if not thus distorted, would have blossomed into one of those holy acts whereof ‘God did it’ and ‘I did it’.

In summary, this is a great book worth reading, pondering, and re-reading.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

Everyone in the church – the body of Christ, the believers – has a purpose for their lives. And God has placed gifts, talents and abilities in each one of us in order to accomplish that purpose (Ephesians 4:8-16). One of such is the ministry of intercession. And it is rather impossible to grow and develop to your fullest potential independently of other believers. Building a people to do God’s work happens in the local church when we are connected to and grow with the rest of the congregation. It is within that context that we find who we are created to be and what we are created to do.

An intercessor is someone who steps into the gap between God’s righteousness and man’s failure, and through prayer, brings the merits of the cross to bear upon people and situations. Intercessors are needed because the world is filled with men and women who don’t understand the effects of their own sin. Or they don’t understand everything God can do for them, and so they don’t know how to ask for themselves. They don’t realise the extent of God’s provision for them, so they need someone who will step into their situation in prayer. And even people who do know how to pray can sometimes be so overwhelmed by their circumstances that they can’t pray. They need an intercessor to step into the gap for them too. Here is where we come into the picture. We can answer God’s call and partner in His kingdom purposes by praying for people and situations that need the touch of God.

Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 16:19). Keys mean the authority, the privilege, the access. Some things will not be turned loose unless you turn them on. Some things will not be turned loose unless you set them free. The key doesn’t make the power of the engine, it releases the power of the engine. A key is no good to us if we never use it to unlock anything.

We do not have to agree on every minute detail of our beliefs, but it is crucial that we agree on certain foundational truths, otherwise we are not standing on the same foundation. “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The answer is “No.” We have to agree on who it is exactly that we are praying to, and that His Word not only invites our prayers, but it also promises answers.

What makes prayer work? Prayer works because of what Jesus did; when Jesus rose from the dead, he commissioned everyone who believes in Him to destroy the rulership of the enemy and restore rulership to man. This is done through prayer. Prayer works because we live God’s way. “Whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). But remember, answers to prayer are not earned by our obedience. But our privilege to pray boldly is rooted in our relationship with Father God. And He has called us to walk as obedient children.

With confidence in Christ, let’s pray.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

Prayer is a way to maintain constant communion with God the Father and God the Son through God the Holy Spirit (John 15:5-8). It is about God with us. God’s presence transformed ordinary sinful people into apostles who ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6).

The issue is: how could we effectively pray despite our busy schedule?

Bill Hybels recommends ‘Practical Journal Writing’ first mooted by Gordon MacDonald in his book “Ordering Your Private World” which suggested keeping a journal, and writing in this journal book every day, but restraining yourself to one page. Every day, when you open to the next blank sheet of paper, write the same first word: “Yesterday”. Follow this with a paragraph or two recounting yesterday’s events. This exercise will cause a tremendous step forward in spiritual development.

After you have written your journal, flip all the way to the back of your notebook and write a prayer, and again, limit your writing to one page. Then go on your knees and read the written prayer out aloud.

After that, on your knees, soften your heart and invite the lord to speak to you by His Holy Spirit (1 King 19:12). These moments in God’s presence are the ones that really matter, because it is here that authentic Christianity emanates, the unhurried silent communing of God’s spirit with ours.

The arch-enemy of spiritual authenticity is busyness. And so, it is time to slow down, reflect and listen. God speaks to us:
(1) through His Word
(2) through other people
(3) through the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9)

People who make opportunities for the Holy Spirit to speak to them during their prayer time will know that the Christian life is a continual adventure. It is full of surprises, thrills, challenges and mysteries. If you open your mind and heart to God’s prompting, you will be amazed at what He will do. He is attempting to communicate with you more often than you know. You have no idea how much richer and fuller, how much more exciting and more effective your life would be once you make the decision to be still, to be aware and to obey God’s prompting.

Bill Hybels reminded us that we can’t become an authentic Christian on a diet of constant activity, even if the activity is all church-related. Ministry activities, Christian concerts, weekend conferences, church committee meetings – these may all be valuable, but they won’t serve you well as your primary source of strength. Strength is borne of solitude. And often, decisions that change the course of your life usually come out of these ‘Holy of Holies’ encounter on your knees.

So why not practise (1) practical journal writing (2) one-page prayer writing, and (3) go on your knees and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to speak and to transform your lives.

Despite our busy schedule, we must pray. That’s the essence of Christianity.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

Timothy James Gibson is a pastor at Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah) who hasa passion for teaching the Word of God. He has written a book on knowing God’s will called “Picture Perfect” and a booklet called “Building Prayer Altars”.

Prayer Altar is a lifestyle where we come into the presence of God so that darknessis broken over our lives and land. When we think of our prayer altar as a time and a place rather than a lifestyle, we will believe we are finished commuting with God when that time is over. But when we live the prayer altar lifestyle, we carry

God’s presence wherever we go.

In the booklet “Building Prayer Altars”, Pastor Tim Gibson recommends the following activities to cultivate our prayer altar as a lifestyle:

  • Getting up early (5 or 6 AM)
  • Reading the Word for 1 or 2 hours
  • Worship God
  • Pray

These times in the presence of God will launch us out to carry His presence wherever we go. The booklet “Building Prayer Altars” is a must-read if you want to make prayer in presence of God a lifestyle instead of an event.

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