Editor Note: This corporate review is a first for PneumaReview.com. David Seal, professor at Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Michigan), approached us about having his entire New Testament Survey class write a review together. They selected a book on prayer to draw out the most practical application of biblical theology.
John DeVries, Why Pray? 40 Days—From Words to Relationship (Grand Rapids: Mission India, 2012), 243 pages, ISBN 9780978855154.
John DeVries, author of Why Pray? 40 Days—From Words to Relationship, has written a daily devotional book on why prayer is so vital in our lives. The author is a pastor, has served as a missionary in India for thirty years and is the founder of an organization called Mission India. He has also written many other books, including Pictures of Perfect Peace, A Christ Appointed Ministry, and Why Give?
This book is organized into five weeks of reading. Each week has a short chapter to be read daily. The chapters are short yet filled with content. The chapters conclude with a Reflect/Discuss thought and a Meditate thought, making this a good book choice for reading not only as an individual but as a group. The book concludes with a short epilogue, which further expands the author’s thoughts and challenges the reader to deepen their prayer life. Each week of daily readings focuses on different aspects of prayer, such as the simple ideas of why prayer is essential to a Christian’s daily life, the importance and urgency of praying first, why it is essential to be aware of our neighbor’s needs, how prayer should be done, how to build a home on the foundation of prayer, and how to be consistent in daily prayer.
DeVries begins his book by inviting readers to H.O.P.E., which stands for Homes of Prayer Everyday. He encourages families to pray together daily, seeing prayer as not something on their to-do list, but rather the necessary maintenance of relationships. The author’s intent is that his book is indeed used for daily reading—not to be read in one sitting—so there is time to reflect, apply and meditate on the truths learned with that day’s lesson.
Why Pray? maintains a reader’s interest quite easily. Not only is the subject matter timeless, but each day’s reading offers a different glimpse into living a life of prayer. Each chapter contains a short anecdote, a real life story or scriptural references that relate to an aspect of prayer. DeVries uses these stories and references to convey his thoughts on prayer and to make his book easily applicable and informative. These illustrations are captivating and thought provoking. He shares not only personal family stories, which are easily related to, but stories about his time in India. One striking example was how prayer by out-castes for upper castes was answered, resulting in the conversion of a family from the upper caste (119‒122). His time in India has certainly given him a unique perspective on prayer.
DeVries causes the reader to reflect in fresh ways on prayer, encouraging not only the new believer but the scholar as well. For example, he uses the illustration of a young boy riding a tractor with his grandfather as “they” do the work on the grandfather’s fields. As he furthers his analogy he writes, “This image strikes me as a picture of myself in prayer. Prayer is the dependent relationship in which I sit on the lap of my heavenly Father and put my hand on His as He steers the tractor. After all, He not only owns and drives the tractor, but He owns the farm!” (30‒31). As DeVries continues his analogy he comments that sometimes we fall asleep in prayer, as a child may fall asleep in their father’s lap. Perhaps that is because we feel safe “sitting on God’s lap.” While that is a comforting picture, it seems important for the author to have acknowledged that falling asleep while praying should not become habitual.