The 10 Best Books on Prayer
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Prayer is such a critical part of the Christian life that hundreds of books on the subject have been written. I’ve read several of them – and have several others on my ‘to-read’ shelf. From all the books on prayer that I’ve read, heard about, want to read, and have waiting for me on my bookshelf, I have chosen 10 for this list of the best books on prayer for any Christian to read.
My Favorite Books on Prayer
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
I first read The Circle Maker several years ago. I have reread it twice. I have also read Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge. And I have the audio version of the book! Can you tell I think it’s a great book?
One thing that makes this book so great is that the author – who is a prolific writer – shares dozens of stories of praying and then seeing miraculous answers to prayer. Stories of answered prayer can ignite a passion to see the same in your life.
If you’re not familiar with the book, it draws its title from the legend of an Israelite in the century before Jesus’ birth, who drew a circle and committed to stay within that circle until God sent rain to the drought-stricken land. God honored his prayer. The point is to pray without giving up.
If I had to sum up the theme of this book it would be “Pray Boldly.” Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, maybe it’s time for me to reread it – or at least read the highlighted parts!
A favorite quote: “Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.”
The Power of a Praying … (series) by Stormie Omartian
Many years ago, I bought Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Parent. These books informed my prayer life for years as I fought an intense spiritual battle to save my marriage and protect my children from any damage caused by my husband’s actions and my refusal to surrender to the enemy.
I won’t lie – it was hard. Both living through it and praying through it. But today I look at my restored, happy marriage to my finally-at-peace-with-God husband and my two sons raising their families in the church and with prayerful, believing wives – and I’m eternally grateful for those two books that held my hand when I needed it.
Stormie has written dozens of books on prayer. Depending on your life situation, you might want to start with The Power of a Praying Parent or The Power of a Praying Grandparent. But, if you don’t know where to start, maybe beginning with 30 Days to Becoming a Woman of Prayer would be a better choice.
I love 30 Days to Becoming a Woman of Prayer because it focuses on your relationship to God. Your prayer needs. Your spiritual needs. Your spiritual healing, growth, wholeness. And all of that is necessary before you can become a powerful prayer warrior. Each chapter contains teaching, a sample prayer, and Bible verses to encourage you and build into your prayer life.
A favorite quote: “The whole goal of living a praying life is to be close to God and enjoy an ever-deepening relationship with Him.”
The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson
Several years ago, when this little book by Bruce Wilkinson about a little prayer by a little-known man in the Bible came out, there was considerable disagreement and controversy surrounding it. People either loved it or hated it.
Those that hated it tended to think the message reduced God to a genie-in-a-bottle. Just pray this prayer and be blessed. Those that loved it saw it as an invitation to a fuller life lived in the middle of God’s purpose and plan.You will learn more about praying by praying than any book can teach you. Click To Tweet
I fell into the second camp. But I knew many who felt otherwise. And I understand. The message shared in this small book is easy to get wrong. James 4:3 admonishes believers that they (you and I) won’t receive anything if our only motivation is to “spend it on your pleasures.”
But that isn’t the message in The Prayer of Jabez. In short, the message is, “Bless me so I can bless others.” That is what God wants for all His children.
Yes, if you’re saved, you are already blessed tremendously. But that does not mean that you have used up your allotment of blessings from God. He is infinite. His capability to bless is infinite. His desire to bless is infinite. This message is just one more way of stating “Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.”
My recommendation? If you read The Prayer of Jabez, also get the devotional. The combination will help you better absorb and understand the message. If you’re not much of a reader, this book (or The Circle Maker) is a good place to start learning more about prayer.
A favorite quote: “When we seek God’s blessing as the ultimate value in life, we are throwing ourselves entirely into the river of His will and power and purposes for us. All our other needs become secondary to what we really want – which is to become wholly immersed in what God is trying to do in us, through us, and around us for His glory.”
The Kneeling Christian by an Unknown Christian
The Kneeling Christian was the first book on prayer I read as a new believer. That was many years ago. I no longer have a copy of the book, although I’ve often thought of purchasing one and rereading it.
What I do know is that the book affected me so much that I read it at least twice and still remember the impact it had on my prayer life several decades later.
Since I haven’t read The Kneeling Christian lately, I looked up some reviews on Amazon and Goodreads while researching this article. Most reviewers gave the book an enthusiastic 5-star review and recommended other believers read it.
You need to know that the book was originally published early in the 20th century. Because of that, the language might be more challenging for some readers than many newer books on prayer. I still think it would be worthwhile for every believer to read.
A favorite quote: “God wants me to pray. The devil does not want me to pray and does all he can to hinder me. He knows that we can accomplish more through our prayers than through our work. He would rather have us do anything else than pray.”
The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz
In chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, the prophet “understood from the books according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah” that the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon was almost over. So he turned his attention “to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petitions, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”
The next 16 verses are Daniel’s prayer for the nation of Israel – his nation. He worships the Lord, he confesses the national sin, he begs for God to hear and return His people to His land. What a timely message The Daniel Prayer is to the Church in the United States in the summer of 2020.
Certainly, there are individual Christians and individual churches in our country that have remained faithful and pure. But on the whole, like ancient Israel, I believe the church has compromised the gospel for the sake of convenience and ‘relevance.’ But even if I’m wrong – there is never a wrong time to humble ourselves in repentance before God and plead for His blessing.If you want to pray effectively and with power, start with the Bible. Click To Tweet
Humility, repentance, seeking the Lord and His blessing for ourselves, our community, and our country is the message of The Daniel Prayer. I first listened to the audio version a few years ago and was so impacted by the book that I bought the hardcover – something I seldom do. It may be time to reread it as I intercede for my country.
A favorite quote: “This is not a casual, every-day, pray-as-you-feel-like-it, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety type of prayer. It is not even a flare sent up as a distress call for help. The Daniel Prayer is a commitment. A commitment that perseveres over any and every obstacle until Heaven is moved and nations are changed.”
Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
The subtitle for Fervent is “A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer.” That’s probably all you need to know before you decide that you need to read this book. You are in a spiritual battle with an enemy who delights to see you fail. Priscilla Shirer exposes his tactics in this book and helps you arm yourself with the Word of God.
Ephesians 6:17 says that your sword in this battle, your only offensive weapon to attack and defeat the enemy, is the Word of God. I’m currently on my second reading of this book. This time, I’m reading it more slowly and applying it more intentionally to my prayer life.
Still need convincing? This sentence from the back of the book should do it: “Fervent is a hand-on, knees-down, never-give-up action guide to practical purposeful praying.”
A favorite quote: “The enemy has been telling us for so long that we’re no good, washed-up, underequipped, incompetent, insignificant, unlovable, and not quite up to par. He’s been brainwashing us, one feminine soul at a time. But now we both know the truth. We can see clearly that he’s been lying for the purpose of keeping us from even trying to put up a good fight against his planned attacks….And now we’re ready to take that holy indignation into battle, on our knees, in prayer.”
Books on Prayer Waiting on My Shelf
I confess I have a bit of a book-hoarding problem. The thing is, I enjoy hunting for bargains at thrift stores. And when I find a book that I’ve heard is good, I pick it up. So….I have a fair number of books waiting to be read. On the bright side, they didn’t cost me much!
The following six books are at the top of my list to read. I have skimmed through many of them, read the back covers, read through the table of contents, and often read the introduction or first few pages. I have also relied on reviews from other sites, such as Amazon, Goodreads, or other blogs before deciding these books made the cut.
The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer
No list of the best books on prayer would be complete without the writings of E.M. Bounds. From 1912 to 1931, E.M. Bounds published eight small books on prayer. These books are prayer classics. Your prayer education (and mine) is incomplete without them.
One issue you may have is with the language used. The books were written a century ago, and language was more formal then. The version I have on my shelf – that I will read! – is in contemporary English. I highly encourage you to get a similar version.
The eight books are available separately or as a complete set, which is what I have. If you are frightened by large books, get a set containing eight individual books. They are short and much less scary!
The eight books E.M. Bounds wrote are:
- The Necessity of Prayer
- The Essentials of Prayer
- The Possibilities of Prayer
- The Reality of Prayer
- Purpose in Prayer
- The Weapon of Prayer
- Power Through Prayer
- Prayer and Praying Men
I have listed them above in the order they were written and the order I would read them. In fact, I have started the first book, The Necessity of Prayer. The quote below is from the first chapter of that first book.
A favorite quote: “Prayer is the task and duty of each recurring day – daily prayer for daily needs…No amount of praying, done today, will suffice for tomorrow’s praying.”
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller
From all reports, Timothy Keller is a must-read author for the serious Christian. But I must confess, I haven’t read anything he’s written. I’m not sure how he escaped my notice until recently – but there are a lot of authors out there!
Timothy Keller’s book on prayer is simply titled Prayer. But I love the subtitle: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. That phrase, ‘awe and intimacy with God’ describes what heaven will be like. We will spend eternity being in awe of God, worshipping Him, and enjoying His presence. Judging from this subtitle, prayer is a pre-cursor to heaven.
This book has been described as comprehensive and clear, thoughtful and Biblically-informed, and a great resource. Just from skimming, I can tell you the language is more difficult than some other books on prayer. However, it also seems to go much deeper into what prayer is and why prayer is important. The author refers frequently to the writings of giants of the faith from centuries ago, such as Augustine and Martin Luther. That alone should indicate that this probably isn’t the first book on prayer you should read! Prayer by Timothy Keller has 5 sections, which I list below along with a brief statement about what that section covers.
- Desiring Prayer – why we should want to pray.
- Understanding Prayer – explaining both what prayer is and why praying well requires that we understand who God is.
- Learning Prayer – guidelines for praying from great saints of the past and the “prayer of prayers” given by Jesus.
- Deepening Prayer – becoming better acquainted with God through prayer by meditating on the Word and seeking to know Him intimately.
- Doing Prayer – worship, thanksgiving, petition (asking), confession – these are the key elements of prayer to engage in each day.
A favorite quote: “To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.”
Learn More About Prayer
- What Does the Bible Teach About Prayer?
- Should You Pray for Yourself?
- How Can I Make Time for Prayer?
- Would a Prayer Journal Help You?
Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by Charles Stanley
Charles Stanley has been a pastor for more than 50 years. During that time, he has authored dozens of books and I have read a few of them. I generally find his books easy to understand, Biblically sound, and immediately applicable to my life. His book on prayer, simply titled Prayer, is high on my list of books on prayer to read.
The theme of this book is that prayer is a conversation with God. And like all conversations, prayer involves both talking and listening. We speak to God in worship, confession, making requests. Then He speaks to us through His Word and in other ways to guide our lives. Learning to listen for the Spirit’s voice is essential to effective praying. The emphasis on the back-and-forth of conversation seems to set this book apart from some others.
Although Charles Stanley could have written a theologically deep and difficult-to-understand book, he chose instead to write in a manner that is easy to read in small bits and apply immediately to your life. For example, chapter 4 has 25 pages. And those 25 pages contain 23 headings or subheadings. You could quite easily read one page at a time!
Why would I bother to tell you this? Because the way the book is written – with all those headings and subheadings – is ideal if you aren’t used to reading much or don’t have much time. You can learn about prayer in bite-sized pieces.
A favorite quote: “God is mindful of you. The Good Shepherd watches over the particulars of your life. And He wants you to hear His voice.”
Lord, Teach Me to Prayer in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
This is not actually a book on prayer. It is a Bible study on prayer. But I think that makes it even more valuable. Kay Arthur, who has written more than 100 books and Bible studies, uses the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6 as the outline for this study.
The book is broken into four sections, with each section having five assignments to be completed in one week. Full disclosure – I started this study a few years ago but only finished the first week. I’m determined to start over and finish all 4 weeks this time.
The four weeks are (1) Learning to Pray God’s Way; (2) It’s All About Him; (3) You Belong to God; and (4) Staying in the Word. As you can see, the focus is on prayer as a part of your relationship with God.
Other books on prayer in this list make the same point: prayer is all about your relationship with God. An important fact about prayer that you should understand is this: Bible study and prayer are two sides of the same coin. That is, you cannot effectively pray if you aren’t regularly in the Word. And you cannot effectively learn from God’s Word if you don’t pray. This study combines both the Word and prayer, so if you want to get serious about prayer, it would be a great place to start.
A favorite quote: “If you are weak in the Word, Beloved, you will be weak in prayer. If your knowledge of Scripture is shallow, your prayers will be too.”
BONUS: The Bible
The Bible should probably have been listed first because it is where we get all our understanding of prayer. All the books listed above – and all the other books that were ever written or will be written on prayer – only explain what the Bible teaches.
Unless, of course, they teach anything that is anti-Biblical or extra-Biblical, in which case they are garbage.
That said if you want to learn more about prayer, start with the Bible. When reading books about prayer, write down the verses mentioned so you can read them over in your Bible later. And pray over those passages. And so the Spirit can use the Word to teach you how to pray.
If you want to pray effectively and with power, start with the Bible.
Two Final Books on Prayer to Consider
As I was researching books for this article, I repeatedly ran across two titles that are resting happily in my Amazon cart. These books were not books I had read about before. But they were recommended on so many other sites, that I determined they needed to be added to my list of books on prayer.
I have little information about either of these books so if you’re interested in them, do some research.
The first is A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther. This book was written almost 400 years ago! However, since it is still recommended and still in print, I think it’s probably a winner.
The second book is A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. A Praying Life was first published in 2009 and then republished in 2017. The subtitle, “Connecting with God in a Distracted World,” seems like it’s probably a perfect fit for the 21st century. I’ve never heard of the author, but the publisher is NavPress, a highly respected Christian publisher. The fact that it comes from NavPress helped push me to add it to this list.
Where Will You Start?
I’ve recommended 10 books on prayer that I’m familiar with through reading, skimming, and reputation. I’ve also added two books that I was previously unfamiliar with. After you throw in the Bible – which isn’t an afterthought! – you end up with a nice baker’s dozen. Thirteen books on prayer. One for each month of the year if you wanted to map out a serious plan of study. Plus the Bible in every month!
But if reading all twelve seems overwhelming, maybe these suggestions will help you decide which book to read first.
If you’re just starting on your prayer adventure, begin with Lord, Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days, by Kay Arthur. Follow that with Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker and then one of Stormie Omartian’s books on The Power of Praying.
Perhaps you’ve had some practice in prayer but think you just aren’t getting it right. Or maybe you feel like your prayers are stopping at the ceiling. Or you have difficulty naming even on answered prayer. If this describes your prayer life, start with Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by Charles Stanley. Once you’ve finished that, move on to The Kneeling Christian, The Circle Maker, and then The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. Fit the appropriate books from Stormie Omartian in as a part of your devotional time.
Finally, if you have walked with the Lord for a while, but still feel like you’re missing the best parts of prayer, E.M. Bounds should be your first stop. Read all eight of the books he wrote. Then I’d suggest Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray, followed by Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.
Three books didn’t fit neatly into these groups: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson, and A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. All are worthwhile and should make your reading list sooner or later.
Just so you know – my next book is Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation. Maybe we can compare notes!