Praying, by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

 Published by InterVarsity Press

Reviewed by Carol Madison


This book acknowledges that “most Christians pray differently during different life stages.” With an emphasis on the ongoing need to pray in humility, with repentant hearts, and in view of the holiness of God, the authors describe well the different expressions of prayer. The insight gained through each chapter is clarifying as one seeks to explore different means of approaching God.


Although Packer and Nystrom may at times take more in-depth theological approaches to describing prayer, there is also a refreshing simplicity offered over and over again. Early on, they agree on this simple recipe for prayer: “It has been said, with much truth, that the single word help is the best ingredient of prayer. Whatever else it is, prayer is always….a cry for help, an honest expression of need, predicated on the thought, I can’t get on the way I am” (p. 53).


The chapters include thoughts on “brooding” in prayer (or meditation), praying from a spiritually healthy heart, biblical “complaining,” those seasons of simply “hanging on” in prayer, and the value of joining in corporate prayer. Overarching in each of season of prayer is the need to always reflect upon the character of God and seek greater intimacy with Him. It is an encouragement to move from “duty to delight.”


Although a somewhat lengthy book, it is full of well-crafted sentences, inspirational thoughts, and great quotes on prayer. The disadvantage to a book that is co-authored is the uncertainly of which author to attribute for the quotes. With a name like J. I. Packer, you might assume much of the great writing are his words, but I am sure Nystrom was an equal partner in crafting the book.


But either way, they have co-labored together on a wonderful book on prayer that truly can carry its simple name: Praying.



  1. Do you allow yourself to “complain” to God on occasion, and feel OK about it based on other “complainers” in Scripture? (Psalm 55:16-17: “I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.”)
  2. The authors state, “Prayer cannot be healthier than is our spiritual life as a whole.” Do you believe this and therefore regularly practice a “heart check-up” before you enter into prayer? Do you see this as a regular practice in your church?

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  • Carol, I just came across this review and am definitely going to get this book!  Thanks!

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