Do You Pray? A question for everybody – J.C.Ryle

A Footsteps Blog book review

Time to read: 3 mins

Do You Pray? A question for everybody

J.C.Ryle – Evangelical Press

68 pages, £3.99 – Available from Christian Bookshop Ossett and other Christian booksellers.

In 1878 J C Ryle released a book called Practical Religion. This is a collection self-contained chapters on lots of practical topics like Bible reading, happiness, the Lord’s Supper, riches & poverty, self-inquiry, and sickness. Ryle described them as ‘the daily duties, dangers, experience, and privileges of all who profess and call themselves true Christians‘. One chapter in Practical Religion was about prayer. This had previously been published as a short booklet entitled A Call to Prayer.

This same booklet has also been published in the past with the title Do you Pray? A Question for Everybody. Earlier this year Evangelical Press (EP) produced a ‘lightly edited & updated’ revision with this title. This is part of a series of short books by Ryle being republished by EP.

I’m going to split this review into two bits:

  1. A few thoughts on the ‘edited and updated’ edition
  2. A review of the content of the book itself

The EP Revision

Does the update add anything? For some older books (like those by some Puritans) a careful updating of language can be very helpful to the 21st century reader. However, the question is where to draw the line? I don’t really think Ryle’s writing needs updating. He does use some old-fashioned words, but his style is always simple and clear. In the EP edition of Do You Pray? the results are mixed. The edited parts don’t always read as well and just occasionally I think Ryle’s original meaning is subtly altered. However, the book is nicely presented and if you struggle with Ryle’s 19th century English it makes a good alternative.

Ryle’s Content

What about the content of the booklet itself? Basically its classic Ryle. He really excels on this type of topic, writing in a simple and direct way, always challenging you, but not making you despair! As usual the booklet is full of practical advice firmly based in scripture.

The booklet can be split into three parts.

Firstly, seven chapters in which Ryle outlines why prayer is so important:

  • Prayer is necessary to a person’s salvation
  • The habit of prayer is a mark of a true Christian
  • Private prayer is the most neglected Christian discipline
  • Prayer produces great encouragement
  • Faithfulness in prayer is the secret of holiness
  • Neglecting prayer causes backsliding
  • Prayer is the best way to true happiness and contentment

Secondly, a challenge to those who do not pray, in which he highlights the great danger they are in and tackles some of the excuses made.

Thirdly, advice to Christians as to how to pray. It is this last section that I found most beneficial. Ryle makes 12 points covering:

  • Our attitude in prayer (humility, boldness, faith etc)
  • The content of our prayers – or what to pray for – his advice here to be specific and not to forget to pray for others is particularly helpful
  • When we should pray and for how long

In conclusion, this is a really helpful booklet. As it’s so short, if you can, I’d suggest reading the unedited version – it’s available from Banner of Truth with the original title A Call To Prayer. (As a tip, the original Ryle version is available as a free PDF here so you can try before you buy.) However, if you’d prefer the updated language don’t let me stop you reading the recent EP edition. 

Better still though, why not get yourself a copy of the full book Practical Religion and enjoy Ryle’s teaching and encouragement on a whole range of other useful subjects as well as prayer!

[A00084 – 16/08/2018]

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