A review of Joseph C. Harrod, 40 Questions About Prayer. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, 292 pages, pbk.
Over the many years that I have been a Christian I have read many books about prayer. I have also written about it on several occasions. Prayer is at one and the same time one of the easiest and one of the most difficult subjects in Christian Theology. Most of the books on prayer that I have read are either too simplistic, or else they veer too far from the Scriptures and the view of reality that it presents.
With that in mind I picked up Joseph Harrod’s book with some skepticism, although I was hopeful being that he had written his dissertation on Samuel Davies. Still, I play the cynic well. Was it going to be a wafer-thin book on how much God wants to answer every felt need? Was it going to be written like a long motivational speech, egging us on to pray because prayer is so great? Would the author keep his feet on the ground?
The first thing to do is to see how the author defines prayer. Straight away I was won over. Harrod went to John Bunyan. Since I think Bunyan’s definition (which I will not reproduce here) is one of the best breakdowns of the essence of prayer I was very pleased to find that Harrod agreed. (As an aside, Bunyan’s work on Prayer is available from Banner of Truth).
Harrod’s book is a very good exploration of what prayer is and why it should be prioritized. Harrod divides the subject under five headings: 1. General Questions, 2. Prayer and Theology, 3. Prayer in Scripture, 4. Prayer in Practice, and 5. Prayer in Historical Context. While the first four sections were to be expected I thought the fifth was an excellent choice. My only criticism is that it was not long enough. He covers the early and medieval Church and the Puritans. All good! But I do wish he would have gone into the 18th and 19th centuries at least. There are so many spiritual giants in those eras (e.g., Wesley, Whitefield, Payson, Simeon, Spurgeon, Ryle, etc.). My only other criticism of the book is that it does not tackle the matter of prayer for things that would seem to be God’s will that receive no clear answers. This aspect of prayer – it’s mystery – requires a careful modern treatment.
Nevertheless, the chapters on Theology and Scripture were solid and helpful. The chapters on the Practice of prayer even better. For instance, Question 26 on the Spiritual Disciplines was terrific. Harrod has thought much on this subject.
40 Questions About Prayer is a very good book and is well worth the money.