Reviewed by: Dale A. Van Dyke
The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray, by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway, 2022. Paperback, 128 pages, $16.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Dale A. Van Dyke.
“Is there any activity more essential to the Christian life and yet more discouraging in the Christian life, than prayer?” (11). With that astute introduction, Kevin DeYoung leads us on a thoroughly enjoyable, insightful, and encouraging study of the Lord’s Prayer.
The book is a short but surprisingly detailed treatment of the topic. As with most of DeYoung’s books, the writing style is conversational and easy to read while the content is perceptive and profound. I found myself laughing out loud and warmly moved at different intervals throughout the book. Above all, it is a genuinely devotional book—written by a man who loves the Lord of the prayer and desires to grow in the practice of prayer.
The book is comprised of seven chapters, with a helpful study guide at the end. Chapter 1, “When You Pray,” addresses the how and why of prayer. We should not pray like the hypocrites or Gentiles. And we pray because “God has ordained means to accomplish his ends” (21). These are things we’ve most likely heard before. The blessing of this book is DeYoung’s ability to say them in a fresh and culturally insightful way. For instance, there is an excellent, short correction of a common misunderstanding of hypocrisy as “doing something even though you don’t feel like it.” The adroit response?
Doing what is right when you don’t feel like doing what is right is maturity. Professing one thing in public but living a different way in private is hypocrisy. (17)
Chapters 2–6 deal with the prayer itself. Once again, I was impressed by the helpful insights. In chapter 2, commenting on the importance of understanding and facing the God to whom we pray, DeYoung quotes J. I. Packer, “The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God that prompts it” (33). So true. In chapter 4, dealing with “your kingdom come,” DeYoung helpfully distinguishes between the church and the kingdom and offers some relevant corrections to some contemporary confusion. For instance, to pray the second petition means
we do not seek first the advancement of people with our skin color, no matter what skin color that may be. We do not seek first the advancement of Western civilization . . . [or] the triumph of our political party or even of our nation. We seek first God’s kingdom, and we pray that his kingdom would come, whatever it may mean for our personal, tribal, and earthly kingdoms. (49)
There would be a lot more unity in the church if we understood and adopted that simple principle. Each chapter contains one or more similar gems of insight.
DeYoung closes the book with a helpful discussion of why most English Bibles do not include the popularized conclusion of the prayer—“for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”—but why it remains an appropriate and biblical way to pray.
I highly recommend this book. It would make for a terrific small group study, for discipleship of a new believer or for personal edification. It would also be an excellent resource for a sermon series on the topic, though a danger would be the temptation to quote it too much!
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