Books Every Prayer Leader Should Read

Frederick Douglass was born a slave to an enslaved Black mother almost 50 years before slavery ended in America. School for slaves on the plantation was out of the question, so he learned to read when others helped him understand the letters on signs and posters on barn doors. He eventually escaped from slavery and became one of the nation’s most well-known abolitionists. Concerning the significance of books in his life, he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Kie Bowman

People who love to read agree. Christians are among those who treasure reading. Every year we spend nearly a billion dollars on Christian books, according to Statista. Some of the most popular Christian books are about prayer.

Reading books on prayer is an important way to motivate your own prayer life. Since this is true, which ones should you read? Rather than merely reviewing titles, let’s look at some categories.

BEFORE OUR TIME

American books on prayer predate America! In 1748, almost 30 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Jonathan Edwards released a book with a nearly 40-word title summarized popularly as An Humble Attempt or frequently in more recent days as A Call to United, Extraordinary Prayer. The book urged “concerts of prayer” for revival and argued that the revival we know as the First Great Awakening was started, and could only continue, in prayer. A generation later, the book gained greater popularity than when it first appeared and was a leading factor in the start of the Second Great Awakening.

Two years after releasing his book on extraordinary prayer, in 1749 Edwards published The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, which documents the prayer life of one of the most extraordinary Christians in American history. It became the biggest-selling book of the 19th century in America and was the first book to reach a large European audience. There have been multiple editions, and it remains in print 275 years after its initial publication.

The mid-19th century produced an avalanche of ministries and books on prayer. Significant authors from this time include E.M. Bounds, who wrote a number of small, powerful books on prayer still widely read today. In 1885, Andrew Murray wrote the famous With Christ in the School of Prayer.

Similarly, George Müller of Bristol, England, lived a life of prayer; and his autobiography, as well as his biography by A.T. Pierson, George Müller of Bristol, were influential at the time of publication and continue to be significant today.

Around the turn of the century, the books How to Pray by R.A. Torrey and Quiet Talks on Prayer by S.D. Gordon perpetuated the dependence on prayer which had become nearly synonymous with evangelicalism. Soon after, the Norwegian evangelical Ole Hallesby wrote Prayer. The same year, Samuel Chadwick, a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and educator in England, wrote The Path of Prayer. He taught and later became the principal at Cliff College, where he trained preachers. One of his students was Leonard Ravenhill. The mid-19th and early 20th centuries were like the golden age for books on prayer.

OUR CONTEMPORARIES 

Leonard Ravenhill wrote a series of articles which were collected into a book in the late 1950s. The book became one of the most convicting and beloved books in late 20th century, evangelical culture. It is still in print and widely quoted. A friend and contemporary of Ravenhill’s, A.W. Tozer, published numerous works on prayer, such as The Pursuit of God, in the mid-20th century.

In 1978, Dick Eastman wrote an excellent book, the multi-million selling The Hour that Changes the World. The same year, Richard J. Foster introduced the incredible Celebration of Discipline.

The 1970s also saw the publication of Prayer: Life’s Limitless Reach by Jack Taylor. It was often used as a textbook in colleges and seminary classes. In 1975, Paul Billheimer wrote the thoroughly unique and thought-provoking book Destined for the Throne.

By the 1990s, a revival was brewing and a second “golden age” of books on prayer was on the way. Bill Bright rocked the evangelical world with his optimistic and forward-thinking books on revival, prayer, and fasting.  The Coming Revival came in 1995, followed by The Transforming Power of Fasting and Prayer in 1997. Adrian Rogers also released his personal and insightful book on prayer, The Power of His Presence, in 1995.

Jim Cymbala wrote one of the best books in the category — the near-instant classic Fresh Wind Fresh Fire in 1997. The ’90s concluded with Ronnie Floyd’s helpful 1999 book, How to Pray.

WHERE WE ARE TODAY

The 21st century brought a flood of books on prayer. Robert “Bob” Bakke produced a well-researched book, The Power of Extraordinary Prayer, in 2000.  In 2003, Pete Greig, from England, released the expertly written and challenging book Red Moon Rising about the 24/7 Prayer Movement.

Phillip Yancey released Prayer in 2006, and in 2014 Timothy Keller wrote a book with the same title. In 2011, Mark Batterson wrote the highly readable book The Circle Maker.

Southern Baptist authors were busy writing on prayer around that time. Bill Elliff and the late Michael Catt wrote prolifically on prayer and revival. John Franklin wrote the excellent and original book And the Place Was Shaken in 2005. Steve Gaines applied his exegetical skills with his passion for prayer and produced Pray Like It Matters in 2014. Albert Mohler, the long-time seminary president, in 2018 wrote The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down. Trey Kent and I co-wrote City of Prayer in 2019. James Merritt just released The God Who Hears.

Pete Greig remained busy writing important books on prayer in the last few years, including the award-winning God on Mute, about unanswered prayer. Paul E. Miller wrote a bestseller called A Praying Life.

We need to read more books on prayer, because good books on prayer can help us grow in Christ. We can never learn too much about prayer. In the words of Jack Taylor, “If prayer is anything, prayer is everything.”

— Kie Bowman is senior pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas, and the SBC National Director of Prayer. This article first appeared in Baptist Press Toolbox.