Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learn to Kneel with Giants

Does your prayer life need a boost? Does the ACTS prayer acrostic just not seem like enough? Do you feel like you are a prayer neophyte instead of a prayer giant? Gary Neal Hansen’s book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers published by InterVarsity Press introduces readers to ten prayer practices as taught by several prayer giants.

Kneeling with Giants is divided into four sections each focusing on a particular type of prayer including written prayers, using the Bible in prayer, communing with God, and asking God for help. Within each section, several different prayer types are described. Hansen succinctly introduces the spiritual giant associated with each prayer type and then describes how to practice that prayer model. I found it interesting that several of the prayer models mentioned are ones I had been exposed to previously but I was not familiar with the prayer giant associated with the practice. Hansen frequently references various primary sources related to each prayer type and encourages readers to investigate for themselves. In fact, the e-copy of Kneeling with the Giants includes a companion volume titled Kneeling with the Giants Reader which contains primary sources related to each of the prayer giants discussed. Although I had the printed copy, the primary sources contained in the companion reader enticed me to purchase the e-copy as well. I truly wish the companion reader was available in a printed option as well and hope InterVarsity Press and the author will reconsider this decision.

Hansen emphasizes that each type of prayer or prayer style is not for everyone. Some people will resonate with one type of prayer rather than another. Some seasons of life may lend to a particular giant’s prayer practices. Hansen’s approach was quite encouraging as some prayer books tend to emphasize one prayer model to the exclusion of others or insinuate that truly spiritual people follow a particular prayer practice. However, Hansen does encourage readers to spend a few weeks practicing each type of prayer rather than dismissing it out of hand. As prayer must be practiced rather than simply read about, readers will wish to dip in and out of this book rather than read it straight through. Hansen provides an appendix describing possible ways to use this book in classes or small group studies. Due to the emphasis that prayer must be practiced, he suggests selecting a few of the prayer giants to study and practice at a time rather than tackling the entire book in 12 weeks. To assist with this, a second appendix provides suggestions for how to begin each prayer practice.

Kneeling with Giants is recommended for multiple venues. Hansen’s book would make a marvelous addition to a college or seminary course on prayer or the spiritual disciplines. However, even in such a class it would be difficult to adequately explore all ten practices in a sixteen week course. A small group may find this a wonderful resource to dip into from time to time. For example, a group could select one prayer practice to read and discuss as a group and then to practice individually for a determined amount of time such as a month. An individual would find Kneeling with Giants a useful resource for jump starting a prayer life that has become stale or to focus on a particular prayer practice for a period of time such as during Lent.

If you enjoy Kneeling with Giants, you may enjoy following Gary Neal Hansen's blog as well and watch for future books by this author. Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and feedback. Quite honestly, my library had already purchased a copy and I had this on my "to-read stack" prior to receiving a review copy.

1 comment:

Gary Hansen said...

Thanks for the lovely review, Leslie. I'm grateful -- and will pray that it helps others to find good and wise and helpful ways to pray. Hope you don't mind me chiming in here on your blog!