When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own

By Philip G. Ryken
Wheaton, IL : Crossway (2000). 206 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
12.1 (Spring 2001) : 124-125

Here is a work on the prayer Jesus taught His disciples (Matt 6:9-12; Luke 11:2-4) that is warm, lucid, stimulating, and practical. It will take its useful place with other books on the subject by R. Kent Hughes and John MacArthur. The author served under the late Pastor James Boice as Associate Minister of Preaching at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia beginning in 1995. Ryken sat under the same pastor as this reviewer and his family in the Aberdeen, Scotland, Gilcomston South Church of Scotland.

Ryken begins with Matt 6:5-6 on “How to Pray Like a Hypocrite.” He contrasts genuine prayer in a secret place with that of the hypocrite in regard to motives and reward. He has a burden that all believers, not just spiritual giants, will pray well (12). Each chapter ends with pertinent questions to stimulate discussion in personal devotions or a Bible-study group. Other intriguing titles occur, as Chapter 7, “How to Pray Like an Orphan.” The author means as a pagan who does not have the heavenly Father (27) or as saved people who at times have strained attitudes as if they do not have the Father (29).

Ryken offers counsel on having a consciousness of God as Father (29) and simplicity in prayer (30-31). He uses many illustrations such as Hudson Taylor trusting the Father for provisions at a missions hospital during hard times (34) and H. A. Ironside’s story of an elderly man receiving exact answers (113-14). Readers will benefit from comments on God as Father, on H is being holy, and how His children can b e holy in actions, words, thoughts, emotions, in fact, as they worship in every part of life (72-75). Also, pages on temptation say much, such as Satan’s power, ingenuity, and deceptiveness in making things appear desirable, and how weak and prone to failure believers are, revealing their need of the Father all the more.

That the author has done his research shows up often, for instance, in “Give us . . . daily bread.” He points out O rigen’s error that this could not refer to physical bread since that is too mundane, so it must mean God’s Word, the Bread of Life (105). Jerome wrote similarly. But Tertullian grasped the temporal, literal idea as mentioned along with heavenly things. Chapter notes near the end utilize numerous notable sources—Augustine, D. A. Carson, Andrew Murray, Martin Luther, Tertullian, Leon Morris, Herman Ridderbos, J. I. Packer, James Boice, R. Kent Hughes, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards.

The book is commendable for its refreshing flow, provocative points, illustrations, and insights on attentive prayer. It will remind teachers and pastoral staffers as well as God’s lay servants of their privileges to make much of prayer.