Talking to God: The Theology of Prayer
By Wayne Spear
This is Dr. Spear's last year as the full-time systematic theology professor at RPTS; his presence there has been an incredible blessing to our denomination and to the many pastors he has shaped by the Word of God. Dr. Spear is quiet and warm and his theology is undergirded by a love for Christ and a love for his students. In short, my respect for Dr. Spear approaches unlimited. Consequently, this is a wonderfully biased review.
As part of his doctoral work, he wrote a treatise on the theology of prayer, recently republished by Crown & Covenant. I am currently using this book as a textbook for our Sunday School class. It is a short book (103 pages), yet incredibly helpful. Some parts may be slightly technical for younger readers, but I believe students down to junior high could read this book profitably.
Dr. Spear thinks like a systematic theologian, dividing the book into chapters like "The Hearer of Prayer," "The Role of the Spirit in Prayer," "The Role of Christ in Prayer," etc. Particularly enlightening is Dr. Spear's discussion of what it means it to pray in Christ's name - it means praying with the fullness of Scripture's revelation about Christ in mind, not just claiming His priviliges as our own, but taking into account everything Christ is, everything Christ did, and praying in the light of that.
Another very helpful distinction is the levels of accord our prayers may have with Scripture; we can pray the very words given us to pray in Scripture and have absolute assurance that we'll be heard and answered. We can pray according to the general principles of Scripture (i.e., praying for that job because Christ told us to pray for our daily bread) - here we ought to submit our prayers to God's plan..."if it is Your will." Finally, we can pray directly contrary to Scripture - obviously not a good plan.
There are a lot of these great little tidbits in the book. It is not extremely strong on the practice of prayer and I don't think it was meant to be. But our practice of prayer must be founded on a right and inspiring understanding. Buy this book and read it slowly. Let God's truth correct and fortify your prayers. Let His truth help you see again what a great privilege prayer is!