Reaching the Ear of God. Praying More and More Like Jesus

By Wayne A. Mack
Phillipsburg, N.J. : Presbyterian and Reformed (2004). 284 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
16.1 (Spring 2005) : 164-165

Mack, well known for books on Christian family and counseling, seeks to motivate readers to pray more and pray as they should. His point is to pray as Jesus, the greatest expert in communion with the Father, prayed. To do this, the Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College offers eighteen chapters, then chapter notes and a Scripture index. The foreword is by S. Lance Quinn, Pastor of the Bible Church of Little Rock, Little Rock, Ark., and former assistant to John MacArthur.

Overall the book provides Scripture-saturated thoughts to assist prayer. The author emphasizes in Chapter 1 that for people to pray is natural if indwelt by God’s Spirit and if they are true followers of Christ and love Him. To have God as Father and not to pray is a sin, and He gives blessings when His people pray rightly to Him. Readers will find much of value in these pages that reflect the sage, rich thinking of a man God has used to impact the lives of many fruitfully.

The book does have some opinions that readers will question. One example is, “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul” (44). A problem is where and how in Scripture is this rating established? Leading a soul to Christ and eternal life is a high act showing love to the Savior and concern for a person. Writing a book of Scripture was a very high activity with far-reaching effects. Meditating on Scripture by faith is a high activity, with a focus on God’s words to men, distinct from their words in prayer to Him. Preaching a Spirit-filled message of Christ to the glory of God and the life-changing benefit of hearers is a high act. So is worshipfully offering one’s life or possessions for the sake of God and helping others know Him. Likewise such a missionary as Amy Carmichael reflected high acts in rescuing children from heathen temples in India. These and other examples cause one to hesitate when he sees a questionable rating. Why not rank various acts as high acts without relativizing them? That praying as God wants one to pray is a very high act is certainly true; on that we certainly agree with the writer. And we ought to engage much in prayerful communion with God.

Mack winsomely spotlights thoughts that relate to Jesus’ prayer for disciples (Matt 6:9-13). Among many arresting points is the claim that spiritual matters should be the emphasis in prayers, more so than physical concerns, though the latter are important too (47). Another wholesome thought is that if people pray to the Father they should honor Him, resemble Him, and love His family (50-53). Practical, edifying thoughts about knowing God’s will and praying that it be done come often (chaps. 8-11). The author has much to say about praying to see physical needs met (chap. 12), praying about debts (chap. 15), and praying to receive forgiveness as well as forgiving others (chap. 16). Chapters 17–18 about praying for deliverance so as to avoid sin when tempted have much of worth.

When commenting on Jesus’ model prayer for disciples, some statements about the kingdom do not have a right sound to premillennial dispensationalists. Some will think that the book confuses things when it cites Thomas Watson (105) on “Thy kingdom come” as not referring to a political or earthly kingdom. As amillennialists do, the writer sees “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) as excluding an earthly kingdom. What the author says seems to concur with Watson that “Thy kingdom come” means prayer for a kingdom of grace in believers’ consciences now and a kingdom of glory into which God will translate them, apparently at the Second Advent (106). Without a qualification, the impression is left of a translation in a rapture at Christ’s Second Coming, a post-tribulational rapture. The book again refers to the saved translated into the glorious kingdom (107), and says that believers will “enjoy eternity with Him.” Nothing is said of an earthly (yet spiritual) millennial phase of kingdom life after the Second Coming. As to John 18:36, Christ’s kingdom can be on earth (cf. Dan 2:35; Matt 5:6; Rev 5:10; 20:1-6) in relation to H is regathering people of Israel to their land in accord with many OT passages (cf. Jeremiah 31–33; Ezekiel 34, 36, 37). But His kingdom, while it will be earthly, is not of this world in the sense of being derived from it (for God will bring it by His power, as in Dan 2:35), its values and perspectives. “Thy kingdom come” can be a prayer for fulfillment of the OT kingdom promises that lead into Jesus’ ministry, which is spiritually saturated with heavenly values and is also to be on earth.

As in just about any basically good book, informed readers can agree or disagree on some points. Here is a book on prayer that is a treasure of helpfulness, yet with certain points that are acceptable or not, depending on readers’ doctrinal convictions. The preponderant focus of the book on praying as a vital way of “reaching the ear of God” is a good contribution. One can rejoice when it fosters God-pleasing prayer among the saints. The work ought to have a place among the many books on prayer, especially those centered on Jesus’ prayer for His disciples (Matt 6:9-13). As Quinn says in the Foreword, it is an easy-to-read refresher for pastors, students, and lay people.