Review: Do You Pray?

Prayer is a discipline in which every Christian knows they ought to be regularly engaged, but probably a small percentage actually are. It’s a privilege that all are invited to enjoy, but onto which probably only a fraction cling.

Why is that?

In this short booklet (less than 70-pages), J. C. Ryle, a 19th-century Anglican bishop from Liverpool, addresses the issue about as straightforwardly as possible.

The book begins with Ryle’s rationale for universally asking the title question: Do you pray? In seven brief chapters he provides seven reasons: 1) because prayer is absolutely necessary to a person’s salvation, 2) because its habit is one of the surest marks of a Christian, 3) because it’s a neglected Christian discipline, 4) because the Bible encourages its practice, 5) because in prayer leads to holiness, 6) because neglecting prayer leads to backsliding, and 7) because prayer is the best recipe for happiness and contentment.

Ryle concludes the book with chapters dedicated to those who don’t pray, those who don’t know where to start, and to those who already do, giving some advice on how to mature. So, there’s really something for everyone!

For those who decide to pick up this book for a light-but-convicting read, I would warn you to beware of what I found to be some confusing language around salvation. While Ryle clearly affirms salvation through faith alone (9), he also makes statements like, “Let me tell you, the prayerless person will be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope and without heaven” (11). Now, he could simply be referring here to the prayer of justification that brings about regeneration, but further along we fin this: “not praying is a clear proof that someone is not yet a true Christian … They cannot yet have been born again” (15). As the book goes on, Ryle seems to make more room for a saved person who simply struggles with prayer (chapter 6, for example).

That caution stated, if one picks up this book with a clear commitment to salvation by grace through faith and not by works (including prayer!), these warnings are mild. The book is an important, concise, urgent, and passionate call for God’s people to be a people of prayer. May it continue to get a wide readership!