I humbly admit that praying is one of the weaker parts of my personal walk with God. It is not because I am unaware of the need or importance or prayer. Nor is it because I don’t understand how to pray. So with that reality in mind, I was excited to read William Philip’s book Why We Pray.
What I appreciated most about this book is the simplistic profundity of its message. There are numerous books on how to pray along with many theological treatises on the nature of prayer. I submit there are far too few books that note for the believer why we pray. Often, it is just as important to know why we are to do something as it is knowing how to do the activity. When it comes to prayer, knowing why we engage in a conversation with a sovereign God is of the utmost importance and Philip outlines the why of prayer with great insight.
Four important reasons why we are to pray are explored by Philip with each centered on the foundation of our relationship with God. I recently read a quote by a Jewish philosopher named Martin Buber that spoke of the reality that humans find their full meaning in relationships, specifically their relationship with God. Philip also notes the importance of relationship, rightly evaluating that one of the basic reasons we pray is because God is a speaking God. As such, “speech requires relationship. You can’t speak to someone without creating a relationship.”
Building on this element of relationship and speaking to God through prayer as evidence of that relationship, Philip then outlines another aspect of why we pray, namely because we are sons of God. This brings this relationship with God and the response of prayer to a more familial level. We are sons of God because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Philip aptly states that our status as sons of God through the work of Christ garners us access to the throne of God through the act of prayer. In fact, Philip saliently notes, “We who know that we are sons of God through our Lord Jesus Christ can come confidently. We can come intimately.” It is not our eloquence of word choice that makes our prayers heard by God. Conversely, it is because we are sons of God that He listens and responds.
The next reason why we pray that Philip examines is the sovereignty of God. The question is posed to the reader that since God is all knowing and sovereign, why in the world does He need to hear our prayers. What is the point of submitting prayers to the throne of God if everything has already been planned? This is perhaps one of the great theological questions that many struggle with and Philip does a great job of unpacking how prayer is connected to God’s sovereignty. Prayer at its root is thinking God’s thoughts after Him, praying that His will be done. As such, Philip correctly avers “We pray because God is sovereign and because, as his sons, we share in the glory of that purpose for the world.”
The final aspect of why we pray that Philip addresses is the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. As the Holy Spirit writes God’s Word on our hearts and molds us and shapes us in maturity, his actions in our lives make us pray-ers. Philip states “To speak about prayer is to speak about the ministry of the Holy Spirit of Jesus within people. It is all about his ministry for us, his ministry in us, and his ministry to us.” I appreciated that Philip corrects the perception taken by some that speaking in the Spirit is all about some mystical experience. He reminds the reader that “It’s just praying in line with God’s will as revealed in his words in the Scriptures.”
This is a book on prayer that should be at the top of every believer’s reading list, especially if they are struggling in this area of their Christian walk. The insight provided by Philip is biblically sound, highly practical, and of utmost importance. Furthermore, the questions for reflection and discussion found at the conclusion of each chapter make this a perfect book for both small group study and personal Bible study.
This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.