The Prayer of Jesus

By Hank Hanegraaff
Nashville : W Publishing Group [Thomas Neslon] (2001). 100 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
13.2 (Fall 2002) : 283-284

 An excellent evangelical writer wrote this in the small format patterned after Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez. The sub-title is “Secrets of Intimacy with God.”

Strong points abound in the light, popular style that makes the book eminently readable and a quick study. Illustrations are clear. The book makes points that Scripture confirms. For example, it perceives a refreshing relationship between the use of God’s Word and prayer as helpful to the person in his own holiness, in getting answers, and gaining reward. Most comments on the prayer Jesus taught His disciples (Matt 6:9-13) give relevant, rich lessons. The book is correct about prayer not being a way to pressure God, but a means to conform believers to His will and learn dependence on Him (28). Chapter 8 on the whole armor (Eph 6:10-17) is profitable: when Christians pray “lead us not into temptation . . . ,” they should put on the armor in sync with the Lord (76). Worthwhile principles end the book. Examples of these include seeing prayer mainly as producing a relationship with God, confessing sins daily, getting into God’s Word, discovering one’s secret place, and prioritizing communion with God.

Debatable points appear. Though the author faults Wilkinson’s book for its many illustrations, he spends much time on one illustration after the other. Readers learn about Tiger Woods, Joni, and others. In-depth comments on Scripture are sometimes sacrificed. Some comments raise questions. An example is the idea that Jesus could have prayed the so-called “Lord’s prayer,” the one H e taught His disciples, including the words, “forgive us. . . .” Hanegraaff reasons that Jesus could ask to be forgiven because He took others’ sins and needed forgiveness for these though He Himself was sinless (32-33). Such logic is a flawed attempt to justify calling the prayer “the Lord’s prayer.” A better approach is that Jesus provided a prayer for disciples to pray. The true Lord’s prayer is in John 17. In Matthew 6 Jesus said, “When you pray, say. . . .” He did not say “pray as I do when I say. . . .” However, it is true that other details in the disciples’ prayer of Matthew 6 are parts of Jesus’ prayer life.

The broader context of Matthew 5–7 deals with those who will do God’s and Jesus’ will. Jesus is often speaking to “you,” His audience (5:14, 15, 21, 22, 25, 27-30, 31-32, 34-37, 38-42, 43-48; 6:1-4; and many other times). In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “And when you pray . . . I say to you . . . But you, when you pray, . . . when you have shut your door, pray to your Father . . . your Father knows the things you have need of . . . In this manner, therefore, pray. . . .” The context right after the prayer is also of note: “For if you forgive . . . your heavenly Father will also forgive you . . .” (6:14-15). In Luke 11:2-4, Jesus teaches the same essential way to pray when a disciple asks, “Lord, teach us to pray . . . ,” and here too Jesus says, “When you pray, say. . . .” The context that follows in Luke 11:5-13 focuses on the disciples as the ones praying in accord with the model.

The book has much to commend it, and will refresh mature teachers as well as be a good brief help to leaders, encouraging others to read, with some cautions. The illustrations will entertain and retain some. But many books on prayer will feed more solidly: Donald A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Lehman Strauss’ Sense and Nonsense about Prayer, O. Hallesby’s Prayer, and works by Andrew Murray, E. M. Bounds, and John MacArthur.