Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does it Make any Difference, is a game changer for me. I love this book and it’s one of the ones I recommend to others. Prayer can be so challenging. What is it? Does it work? Does it matter?
The book is an excellent follow up to EM Bounds’ book Power through Prayer. In his book, Bounds contends that we don’t see God’s power because we don’t seek God in prayer. But Yancey’s book asks the question, what about when we do seek God, and we still don’t see His power?
What about when we do pray?
When we cry out to Him.
And we cling to His promises.
But heaven seems silent.
Our prayer goes unanswered
And we wonder why.
What is God doing?
Why does He not answer?
Reasons haunt us.
Did I not pray enough?
And we end up with broken dreams, broken hearts, broken promises.
That’s where Philip Yancey takes us – to that place of what and why?
What is prayer?
And why do we pray?
From the perspective of a fellow sojourner, Yancey walks us through this thing we as Christians are called to do, this thing called prayer. Throughout the book, he shares the personal prayer testimonies of everyday people as well as quotes and wisdom from many “giants” in the faith. His first section, aptly called “Keeping Company With God” takes a look at us, takes a look at God, and brings us together in relationship. Yancey then moves on into the mysteries of prayer, drawing us into discovering the prayers that Jesus prayed, and the prayers that he did not. He also invites us to peer into the prayers of Old Testament men and women, exploring the idea, “does prayer change God?”
When I reached the section, “Prayer Dilemmas,” I found that my reading of the book had been quite timely with certain events in my life. With a friend’s diagnosis of cancer, we rallied with family and friends around her, praying over her, claiming promises of healing, carrying her to the feet of Jesus, like the four friends who carried their friend on the mat, expecting answers, hoping for miracles. And when we faced unanswered prayer, we wondered why. When we sought healing and it did not come, our hearts were broken.
In the midst of it, I marveled that I was in the book’s section of prayer dilemmas. How I appreciated Yancey’s words of wisdom and insight, his chapter on living with the mystery of unanswered prayer and asking the question of what we ought to pray for. As I wrestled, like Jacob, with a God I could not comprehend, I took curious comfort in the fact that I did not wrestle alone. Throughout history, God’s people have wrestled, pondered, questioned, this thing we as Christians are called to do, this thing called prayer.
And in the end I found, that really, all I can do is crawl up next to my Father’s heart and trust that He is good, even still.
My biggest take away. Jesus believed in prayer. He prayed. He prayed a lot. Since he prayed, I will, too.