‘Kneeling with Giants,’ by Gary Neal Hansen, IVP Books, 2012, 238 Pages, ISBN-13: 978-0830835621, $15.00
Sometimes our prayers seem to reach the ceiling and stop, with prayers that feel hollow, flat and sterile to our own minds or ears. We would like a spiritual prayer mentor but don’t know where to find one or even where to look. If that describes how you feel, then this book on spiritual prayer giants of the past is for you.
In perfect time for National Day of Prayer week, Hansen’s new book on prayer introduces ten spiritual giants from church history with prayer techniques “…rooted in centuries of Christian tradition…”
The book, divided into four parts, includes chapters on spiritual prayer warriors like, St. Benedict, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, St Teresa and Andrew Murray. The first segment, “What Language Shall I Borrow?” features prayers of “The Divine Office,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and the Pilgrim’s “Jesus Prayer.”
The Pilgrim’s Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,” is taken from “The Pilgrim’s Tale,” written by a 19th century Russian peasant who wanted to learn how to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Hansen explains how he used this prayer as a class assignment for students who studied different prayer models. Their assignments—say the Jesus Prayer five minutes each day. Although one student objected at the beginning of the year, by years end he confessed it’s the only prayer he could say meaningfully, “…over and over…” because of stress in his life.
Part two, “Praying with Scripture” features John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola. Calvin believed and taught prayer was “…communion with God through Scripture prompts, both speaking and listening.” While Ignatius of Loyola sought and found God’s will through exercises, two of which he called, “the examination of conscience” and the prayer of the senses.”
The third part, “Conversations Light and Dark” features three types of prayer while part four, “Asking God for Help, focuses on Agnes Sanford and Andrew Murray, who made “intercessory prayer their ministry…in very different ways.”
The author’s warmth and earnest portrayal encourages readers to practice different methods of prayer for two week periods to learn what method they feel most comfortable with. The book is theologically sound, entertaining and interesting. Mark Labberton, author of “The Dangerous Act of Worship” endorses the “Kneeling with Giants” and writes the prayers “…inform, invite and nourish our hunger for God…”
Appendix 1 includes sample small group sessions as a resource for small groups or church groups. Appendix 2 offers concise chapter by chapter summaries of prayer types and how to put them into practice, “…usually in five to fifteen minutes per day” segments.
Gary Hansen holds a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, is a minister and current assistant professor church history at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.
Information on 2012 Seattle/King County Prayer Breakfast: http://www.waleadership.com/
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