Prayer for Beginners, Peter Kreeft

October 6, 2008

prayerkreeft1I began reading this little volume several years ago, got distracted, and recently picked it back up again because I had come to have some struggles in praying…as if I never struggled praying.

What I found upon returning to this book was a helpful series of devotional chapters from which I benefited well. It reminds me both of the inspiration of Brother Lawrence and the devotional and instructive by O. Hallesby. Kreeft’s instructions here are not really meant as a step-by-step or how-to for praying. From the chapter, Necessity, he writes not only that you must read meditatively but that, “you must actually do it, not just read about doing it, think about doing it, understand how to do it, plan to do it, or imagine yourself doing it.” So from it’s beginning there is a clear sense that one must just begin to begin to pray.
While not promoting methods, Kreeft introduces aspects in praying such as stopping, looking, and listening, and he offers possible models of prayer such as the acronym RAPT – Repentance, adoration, petition, and thanksgiving…
There are eighteen short chapters covering some subjects within prayer such as methods, thoughts, faith, distractions, sins, simplicity, and perseverance. Kreeft admits in his introduction of drawing from Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God, and this is easily sensed throughout the volume’s pages. But he quotes from other saints as well with well-appointed thought. While Kreeft is Catholic and there are some doctrines put forward such as transubstantiation, purgatory and the Immaculate Conception, these things are not merely inserted, but rather form a flow of thought from the author’s attempt to explain a sub-thought in the subject under discussion.
While he writes on prayer he discusses distractions and obstacle to prayer and the issue of answers to prayers as well. He writes both with simplicity and intelligence appealing to both one’s heart and mind. My favorite chapter has to be the one entitled, “Jesus”. In it Kreeft writes on the matter of what it means to invoke and pray in Jesus’ name. Writing of what it is not he says, “its purpose is not to transform our consciousness and make us mystics, or to bring inner peace, or to center on our own heart.” Instead this is dialogue, relationship-personal, that is, with Him as Savior, Lover, Lord, and God. In discussing how “prayer changes things” Kreeft says that “it may or may not change our circumstances. But it always changes our relationship to God, which is infinitely more important than external circumstances, however pressing they may seem, because it is eternal but they are temporary, and because it is our very self but they are not.”
While this may not be the best instructive, I would recommend this little volume to anyone seeking something that would help them in their “prayer life”.

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