We teach many subjects in seminary: languages, theology, history, hermeneutics, etc. We teach classes in these areas, expecting students to learn, grow, and improve in their ability to effectively minister the Word. This is good and right. As elders, we are supposed to “devote ourselves . . . to the ministry of the Word”(Acts 6:4). Dedication to preparation for the ministry of the Word will later bear fruit in effective practice.
What about prayer? Prayer is sometimes seen as something that should be spontaneous and natural for pastors, or learned by example alone. However, I would argue that an effective ministry of prayer takes preparation, dedication, development, and discipline as well. I want to recommend a resource that has been helpful to me.
Isaac Watts, best known as the writer of such famous hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy To the World,” also wrote a very helpful book on prayer called A Guide to Prayer. This book was first developed as a series of talks “for the use of a private society of younger men who desired to learn to pray.” He goes on to say:
How excellent and valuable is this skill of praying, in comparison with the many inferior arts and accomplishments of human nature that we labour night and day to obtain. . . How many years of our short life are spent to learn the Greek, Latin, and French tongues, that we may communicate among the living nations or understand the writings of the dead? Shall not the language in which we converse with heaven and the living God be thought worth equal pains? (170-171).
This small book was especially helpful to me in bringing more biblical proportion to both my public and private prayers. It has made prayer a discipline that I can continue to improve upon, rather than a practice full of cliche’s, ruts, and the vain repetitions we so easily recognize in others, but fail to see in our own prayers. It is filled with exhortations and encouragements which were good for me to read.
Whether you are a young man preparing for ministry, a pastor well into ministry, or a believer struggling to pray more effectively, this book will be beneficial to you. Overall, be encouraged that you can improve in the work of prayer for the good of your soul, your family, your friends, your church, and for the spread of the gospel!