Review of @ivpress’s, A Book of Prayers by Arthur A. R. Nelson

When my wife first picked this book up, she flipped through the pages and discovered just what it was. Her response was one that sold me on such works, and perhaps just a little bit on this one. Written through experience by  Arthur A.R. Nelson, many times a pastor and former dean of North Park University and Seminary in Chicago, the reader will see this book is for you and me.

This is not simply a minister’s handbook on prayer, although it does include prayers for necessities such as weddings, baptisms, and funerals, but equally for those times and days, seasons if you will, when the Christian’s walk is disjointed in some way, and a prayer is what helps. In this spirit, then, Nelson does not give us long, flowering psalms of the person disguised as prayer, but short statements from an overwhelmed heart.

We might turn up our nose at written prayer — I have heard many dismiss the written prayer as some how interfering with God’s Spirit. Yet, we say the Lord’s prayer, we say our liturgical stanzas, we read the Psalms. All of these things are written so that we might call up the community’s experiences to help us in our individual moments of dispair or in our not-so-solitary worship. Look at this work in the same way. Nelson did not just commit pen to paper to craft words like a student who attends a pottery class believing he is some artist. No, Nelson has poured himself and his experiences with life’s cumbersome ways to produce a short miracle. Any short internet search of the author — I admit, I do this so as to not judge any author too easily — reveals that he has waged many a spiritual battle and helped, either as pastor or dean, others to navigate their bark.

When my wife picked this up for the first time, her glances lingered longer than mine. She read more pages than I did. I received it, read the insert, and put in on the entry table. She looked at it and held it in her hands. After a moment or three, she  sounded almost relieved to say that she would use a book like this because she does not know what to say in prayers and indeed who really does? Thus, to draw upon another’s experience, to open the full wealth of a communal bank of overcoming, is to propel oneself into a better walk, a better prayer life. We must all start somewhere, and even the most experienced prayer warriors will come to find that this short book, this breathless take at calming our minds before God, is welcomed.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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