Prayers may be formal or informal, carefully composed or on the spur of the moment.
They might be in the form of confessions or thanksgivings, and often they are requests made to God on behalf of ourselves or for others.
Does prayer change anything and what do our prayers say about the kind of God we believe in?
Without shying away from philosophical and theological difficulties posed by the practice of prayer, John Saxbee provides an accessible and ultimately reassuring account of how prayer properly understood enlivens and enriches our relationship to God, our neighbour and the world around us.
What Happens When We Pray? is a study with a pastoral purpose, touching on matters which are as emotionally sensitive as they are intellectually intriguing. It is an encouragement to think about what we are doing when we pray and a stimulus to pray with ever more conviction and commitment.
- This is a book which demands to be taken seriously Review by Revd Jeff Thomas
This book focuses on the outcomes of prayer. John Saxbee, is our own Assistant Bishop and a former Bishop of Lincoln, and in his preface he acknowledges the challenges we all share when it comes to prayer. His stated aim is to prompt us to 'think about what we are doing when we pray ' and to stimulate us to 'pray with ever more conviction and commitment '.
Saxbee opens with an overview on the various approaches to prayer, drawing on the observations and reflections of such diverse figures as Abraham Lincoln, Ignatius, Shakespeare, John Wesley and our own R S Thomas. This scene setting is important because it lays the foundations for what follows. Saxbee reviews the philosophical objections to prayer. If God is unchanging how can he change things? If our all-knowing God already knows the future, what is the point? Why doesn't our all powerful God just sort out the world's problems? How can we reconcile God 's innate goodness with what goes on in the world?
Saxbee does not shy away from meeting these objections head on and offers us much to reflect upon. Weighing in at 31 pages, one of the meatiest chapters in the book
deals with the tension between God's sovereignty and our freedom. In a nutshell, if God gives us total freedom then how can he intervene in the world as a response to prayer without taking some of that freedom away? Saxbee offers a number of frames within which the reader is able to set the issue and reflect upon it. Making the case for meeting the challenges 'which must be met if our petitions and intercessions are to stand up to scrutiny as more than just wishful thinking or even superstition' Saxbee examines the human desire for healing, and wholeness and how the act of prayer in itself can influence that process.
This is a book which demands to be taken seriously. It is not a page-turner, it calls for time out for careful reflection as the argument unfolds and the reader is deftly led to the conclusion that 'A prayer offered is a prayer received, and a prayer received is a prayer answered '. (Posted on 29/09/2016)
- Love well, pray well Review by David Adam
What Happens When We Pray? Does it make any difference? (Kevin Mayhew £11.99 (£10.80); 978-1-84867-826-2) by John Saxbee deals mostly with intercessory prayer, and is mainly for people who do pray. Prayer is essential for a two- way relationship between God and us.
Saxbee explores the relationship between God’s sovereignty, control, and our God-given freedom. God chooses, in his love, to honour our freedom by entrusting to us the working out of his will and purpose in the world. If we pray for someone and can help to bring this to happen then we must then seek to do it.
Prayer is an expression of our relationship to God, our neighbour, and the world around us, and an expression of our interdependence. So prayer should be an expression and deepening of our relationships rather than only a seeking for results. In such prayer, we discover our mutual interdependence, and therefore how good such prayer is in opening our awareness of all.
Saxbee faces full on the philosophical and theological difficulties posed by the practice of prayer. He is not always an easy read, but always rewarding.
Above everything, he acknowledges the need for all to pray. He encourages us to think about what we are doing when we pray, and offers us stimulation to pray with ever more conviction, love, and commitment to action. Prayer always makes a difference.
In my reading I kept thinking of these words from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast. He prayeth best, who lovest best All things both great and small.
Canon Adam is a former Vicar of Holy Island. (Posted on 29/09/2016)