The Way Of The Heart

The Transforming Friendship, by James Houston (Lion, 304 pp.; $14.95, hardcover); Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, by Eugene H. Peterson (Harper & Row, 151 pp.; $13.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Dallas Willard, author of The Spirit of the Disciplines and In Search of Guidance.

There are never enough good books on prayer. It is a subject we need help with. We are drawn to it, baffled by it, feel incompetent before it, and excluded from it; we try it (usually “fail”), avoid it, feel guilty about it. But we cannot give it up.

Now two teachers, both widely appreciated for their personal walk in the Spirit and their ability to guide others, explore major themes and approaches to this discipline. Their books will be helpful to those who are committed to incorporating prayer into the substance of their lives.

Heavenly Conversations

Eugene Peterson sees prayer as answering the God who has spoken. He would have us learn to answer by taking the Psalms as exemplar of what “answering God” is like. As many Christians throughout the ages have found, “praying the psalms,” speaking them out as our prayers, involves us in a spiritual and personal interchange between God and his people, and bends our whole being to the currents moving there. Though it has a long history, this use of the Psalms has been virtually lost to the Western church for a century or more, along with many other time-tested practices that can be counted on to produce growth in the spirit.

Not only does Peterson teach us about prayer, but he also explains the nature and content of the Book of Psalms. He locates the Psalms and prayer squarely in the midst of unvarnished human existence. What a relief it is when he tells us that “prayer is not ...

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