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Friday, October 27, 2006

Prayer: Conversing with God

Christianity Today recently published a list of "The Top 50 Books that have Shaped Evangelicals." They say that the list is still under debate. The top book is Prayer: Conversing with God, by Rosalind Rinker. It was originally published in 1959, but has been through several printings since. I had never read it. The book is out of print, but good libraries should have it, and used copies are available on-line, for example from Amazon's affiliated sellers. The book is small in format, and brief, only 72 pages, plus an appendix.

I read the book. I can't say that it changed my life, but it is a great book. Probably one reason that it hasn't changed my life is that, as CT indicated by the listing, it has shaped evangelical thinking. How? Probably in two ways: taking the King James English out of many people's prayers, and in introducing conversational prayer. (Rinker is not violently opposed to KJV English, but says that it's not natural, and that use of it in the twentieth century is mostly pretty ignorant of the actual use of "Thee" centuries ago.)

Conversational prayer is unstructured group prayer, compared to praying around a circle, another common method. Rinker contends that conversational prayer is more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and more involving, than other methods.

I think Rinker is correct here.

Something that, I hope, did change my prayer life, is Rinker's idea that we pray for things we don't really believe that God can do. It might be better to pray for smaller, more believable things, in step-wise fashion. She gives an example of a Christian couple who moved into a new place. They prayed that the husband would meet the man next door today. He did. The next day, they prayed that he would find out what the man was interested in, during the next day or two. It was football, and they prayed for free tickets for two. Then they prayed that the husband could discuss Christ on the way home from the game, and then they prayed that the couple would accept an invitation to ask them over for a visit and Bible study, and then that they would accept Christ as savior. All these prayers were answered, thus, one step at a time, over a few weeks. Probably, if they had just prayed that they would have a Christian influence in their community, or for their neighbors, nothing much would have happened. (pp. 61-2)


Julana said...

That is fascinating. A woman I knew on staff up in Ontario had that book, and said it had really made a difference in her life. I hadn't heard of it before that. I think I may have later picked up a copy and skimmed it. As you say, it must have had such an influence that it doesn't seem original to us, reading from this vantage point.
That's also fascinating that they would name a book written by a woman in the 50's as being so influential.

Julana said...

What was interesting to me about that list was how many I have tried to get through and couldn't!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Julana. Unfortunately, Rinker probably wouldn't have been recognized like that 40 years ago.