The premise of this book seems to be that Christians in general would be better at prayer if they kept prayer simple. Max Lucado says that in response to His disciples' request, "Teach us to pray" [Luke 11:1], Jesus did not give a lecture on prayer, but provided "a quotable, repeatable, portable prayer." The author then states, "It seems to me that the prayers of the Bible can be distilled into one." The book then becomes an explanation of each phrase in this "pocket-size prayer":
Father, you are good.
I need help.
Heal me and forgive me, They need help.
In Jesus' name, amen.
While there are some good thoughts in some of the chapters, the book is flawed early when Lucado explains the word "Father" by saying that Jesus used the word "Abba," meaning "Daddy," in what we now call The Lord's Prayer. While Jesus did use this intimate term in a later prayer, and Paul uses it twice, it is not recorded in the Lord's teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 or Luke 11.
Later, when addressing forgiveness, we are told that some guilt is good, but we shouldn't be "guilt laden," so Christians should "regulate our guilt dosage." The matter is not about the amount of guilt we feel, but the kind of guilt [II Corinthians 7 calls it "godly sorrow"] and one's reaction to it ["godly sorrow worketh repentance"].
There are several other comments which I think reflect "fuzzy logic." For example, the argument "you are not a louse; you are God's chosen child, and he loves you." The fact that God chose and loves someone is not proof of a human's worth, but proof of God's great love. After all, lice or not, all of those in God's family were children of wrath, servants of Satan, and enemies of God when Christ died for them. Compared to that, and considering that even God's servants can think of themselves as unprofitable [Luke 17:10] at the best of times and could lament their sinfulness as Paul does [Romans 7:24], "louse" seems acceptable, as long as one is then affirms as Paul does [Romans 7:25, 8:1] God's gracious pardon.
The best chapter of the book was chapter 5, "Heal Me." Lucado asserts, "It is inconsistent to say that Jesus saved your soul but not your body. When Jesus took our sins to the cross, he took our cancers, disfigurements, and depression as well." He then boldly poses the question many pastors fear to ask publicly: "Then why do we still get sick?" His answer is clear, plain, and comforting.
The greatest weakness of this book is that Lucado process of making prayer more "portable" it robs prayer of its richness. He says, "It seems to me that the prayers of the Bible can be distilled" into his Pocket Prayer. Albert Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible -- but not simpler." The Pocket Prayer leaves out aspects of prayer which make the experience so rich. What of the prayer that does nothing but praise God, with no supplication? What of the combination of request and remembrance found in Psalm 3:7, "Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly."? There are prayers of scripture, and prayers composed of groaning. By the end of this book, a form of prayer may have been made more accessible to some people, but it was a weak version of prayer, not far removed from vain repetition.
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About the author:
More than 120 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy. Find Max online: website, Twitter, Facebook.
I received a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are those of myself and the guest reviewer.