There are volumes of books and reading material on all subjects and matters; good and bad. Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, "some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."
With hundreds of books on the subject of prayer, ranging from how-to books, to books that answer why we pray, to books filled with others' written prayers, and more, where does one begin? What are the best books on prayer in the world today?
Here's a humble attempt to begin answering these questions. This list is not exhaustive by any means!
#1- The Bible
The whole counsel of God gives us all we need to pray, study prayer, draw near to the heart of God, and much, much, more. If there's one book on prayer that's a must to read, re-read, and read again; without question, it's the Bible!
Jesus' teaching on how to pray is chock full of wisdom, instruction, and practical application. Chapter 6 in Matthew is one of the places where Jesus answers His disciples' request, "Lord, teach us to pray." He models how to pray (worship and exalt God, seek His will to be done in your life and all around you, request for your needs to be met, confess sins and forgive others, request for protection and guidance- also confessing your full reliance on Him, return to worship and continue in praising and worshiping Him). If you struggle with knowing how best to pray, follow Jesus' example here (and practice substituting your own words in place of reading or reciting Jesus' prayer. He wants to hear your heart, expressed your way, not only in his modeled way shared in this chapter!).
The Bible's book of prayer! Some psalms center on worshiping God and are helpful to help us worship and praise Him in prayer. Others are laments mixed with praise and adoration. Psalms show raw prayer and emotion by David and the other writers of this book. It's a book that will likely help you expand the ways you pray. Read and pray through a chapter or section today!
In Luke 11, Jesus' model prayer is recorded again, but this record shows Jesus' encouragement to continue in prayer; persisting and following through in prayer until God shapes and answers your prayer by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us pray!
John 17 records Jesus' prayers for Himself, his disciples, and for all who follow Him. In this record, we see Jesus' heart to see the Father's will perfectly accomplished through Him and His followers, plus He gives us another model in how we can pray for ourselves and others (beyond our personal, immediate wants, needs, and desires that can often encompass most if not all we think to pray about). It's an excellent chapter to read, study, and pray!
#6- 1 Thessalonians
Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to pray in all ways- giving thanks in all things, praying continually, be joyful always (in the Lord's strength), and be careful not to quench or put out the Holy Spirit's fire in willful sin. Many applications to our daily lives in prayer are listed toward the end of chapter 5.
James exhorts his readers to pray and praise in all times and places, and describes ways to go about doing so in all circumstances (James 5). In Chapter 1, he also reminds us to be doers of the word, and not only watchers, listeners, and idle observers.
The first-century followers of Christ prayed together corporately (recorded in chapter 4), and as they did, the Holy Spirit moved upon them and gave them boldness to speak the Word of God with boldness. This is a great reminder of the importance of praying with others- and seeking God to empower us to speak the Word boldly in the power of the Holy Spirit; not only of our own strength or wisdom!
Paul writes his prayer for the Ephesians toward the end of chapter 3. It exalts God while covering those he prays for with powerful requests that strengthen them and honor God all at once! This is another great model of prayer that we can benefit from applying to our lives when we pray!
As you began to read the list, you may have felt a twinge of disappointment if you were expecting a top 10 list of books on prayer that are separate from the Bible itself. While there are many quality writings on prayer by many authors, recent and past, we are wise to keep our #1 source as the #1 source now and always!
If you already own a Bible, you already possess all you need for your prayer life!
You don't need to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into building a library of books that will likely catch dust, take up space, and frustrate you in the future if they're left on the shelves unread. You have all you already need. Open your Bible to one or more of these books/chapters and before you read a single word, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truths and practical ways He'd have you pray from what you're about to read. Ask Him to lead you through what you read. Thank Him afterward for what He revealed to you, and then pray about what He taught you.
Lord, today and every day, continue to teach us to pray!