R. C. Sproul. The Prayer of the Lord. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2009. 130 pp. $9.99.
Prayer is one of those topics that Christians simply cannot ignore. We need to pray. We need to know how to pray in such a way that God will be honored. We need a model for prayer that will help us to cover important categories well. Jesus knows this, which is why he gave his disciples a model prayer to pray. R. C. Sproul also sees the importance of the model prayer, and chose to write a nice little book on the topic.
The Prayer of the Lord is short, helpful, and readable. Unlike some works out there, this book is not so scholarly as to be indecipherable. Nor does Sproul dive off into the mystical. He does not flood the reader with tons of “I prayed this and God did that” stories. There is no hyped-up emotionalism in this book. Sproul has given us a simple and solid look at Jesus’ model for our prayer lives, and readers should be grateful.
Sproul’s work looks at the model prayer, rightfully, as a model. He demonstrates for the reader that repeated use of this model will make thorough prayer second-nature for the believer. Sproul writes, “That’s the benefit of praying a prayer like the Lord’s Prayer over and over again. It becomes part of the fabric of our thinking. It begins to become a part of our souls, so that we fall back on it when we’re at a loss as to how we ought to pray. We can always pray the Lord’s Prayer” (12).
In Sproul’s addressing of the petition, “Hallowed be your name,” he points out the absolute necessity that God’s name be seen as holy. For many, the concept that this phrase of the prayer is a petition instead of a praise will be fascinating enough. However, Sproul’s grasping of the centrality of this request is what is so beautiful. Sproul tells us, “I’m convinced that although we pray for the manifestation and the victory of the kingdom of God, it is futile to hope for the victory of God’s kingdom on this planet until or unless the name of God is regarded as sacred, because God’s kingdom does not come to people who have no respect for Him” (33). He adds, “A lack of regard for His name reveals more clearly than anything else a lack of regard for Him” (36).
At risk of belaboring too many of Sproul’s specific points, his expression of gratitude for God’s forgiveness from the “forgive us our debts” petition is lovely to read. The author tells his readers that forgiveness is something for which we should all be overwhelmingly grateful. He writes, “There is no greater state than to get up from your knees knowing that in God’s sight you are clean, that He has forgiven every sin you’ve ever committed. Without that grace, without that forgiveness, I don’t think I could live in this world for another sixty seconds. This is something we all desperately need, and we have but to ask for it” (85).
Perhaps praying this petition will help us to see exactly how wonderful is the grace of our God.
While Sproul’s work is very helpful, a few negatives may catch one’s attention. In his discussion of the petition “deliver us from the evil one,” the author uses Job as an example. In this example, Sproul speaks of Job as having “aced” his test. Yet, in this description of Job, Sproul does not point out the grumbling of Job or Job’s need for repentance. Later in the Q and A chapter, Sproul does say, referring to Job, “He was severely rebuked for the attitude that he expressed to God” (108). This does not sound like a man who aced his test. While this point is not major, and certainly is not germane to the topic of prayer in general, it comes off a little sloppy.
It also might have been more helpful for Sproul to do a little more thorough handling of the final line of the prayer from a text-critical standpoint. Sproul criticized commentators for basically ignoring this line. He even pointed out that there is a text-critical problem. However, Sproul did not make a very thorough argument as to why he believes this text to be original to the prayer. Obviously, this book is short and not intended to address such deep issues, but the slight treatment that this line gets is unsatisfactory. Perhaps putting the text-critical work in a second appendix would have been helpful.
Conclusion and Recommendation
My problems with this work are tiny, and the helpful points of this book are many. Christians need to know how to use the model prayer in their daily lives. Too many evangelicals have ignored the Lord’s prayer as a source of great guidance for daily prayer. Sproul’s book is a very helpful call for Christians to use this model for their own growth. I happily recommend it.
The brevity and ease of reading that one finds in this book would make it very useful for a small group or one-on-one discipleship study. People will be able to read this work. The short chapters will appeal to those who do not want to spend too much time reading. The learning of the model will help any believer to further his or her prayer life.
** Disclaimer: Reformation Trust gave me a free PDF copy of this book for review purposes and will give me a free copy of the work when this review is published. The publisher in no way influenced my review of this work, only asking that the review be thoughtful and substantive. **