An Interview with Brian G. Najapfour about his co-edited book Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

  1. How has your prayer life grown since writing/editing this book and fleshing out all of the doctrines taught by these reformers and puritans?

Before answering your question, allow me to first express my heart-felt gratitude for this privilege of being interviewed by you. By God’s grace, since I started this project, I have noticed a growth in my prayer life. However, I realize that the more I study the subject of prayer, the more I see my own prayerlessness. And the more I see my prayerlessness, the more I realize my great need of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Indeed, my study of the subject has made me more aware of two basic truths: first, because of my indwelling sin, my soul acts unfriendly toward prayer; and second, because of my indwelling sin, I need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. For me to be able to pray, therefore, I have to constantly remind my soul that prayer is not a foe but a friend. Prayer is such a difficult work that it requires strong discipline. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is not exaggerating when he declares, prayer is “the hardest work of all” (p. 9). I am not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I find it more enjoyable to play basketball than to pray to God. Sometimes prayer becomes boring to me. Writing in his treatise I Will Pray with the Spirit (1662), John Bunyan (1628-1688) understands what I mean here when he says:

May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loath to go to God, and when it is with him, so loath to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities [Rom. 8:26] (cited in p. 116).    

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, commenting on this quote, notes, “From personal experience, Bunyan well knew the allergic reaction of the old nature to the presence of God. So were it not for the Spirit, none would be able to persevere in prayer” (p. 117). Since my indwelling sin makes me unfriendly and even ignorant towards the necessity of prayer, I need the assistance of the Spirit. Why? Because in the words of Bunyan, a “man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once; much less, continue…in a sweet praying frame” (cited in p. 118). O my blessed Holy Spirit give me more grace to pray!

 

This interview is by Chadd M. Sheffield, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. To continue reading the interview, click here.

Book Interview Prayer Puritan Reformer

Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

Reformation Heritage Books is scheduled to release a book this January- Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

Contents

Preface

1. Martin Luther on Prayer and Reformation Brian G. Najapfour

2. John Calvin on Prayer as Communion with God — Joel R. Beeke

3. John Knox: A Theologian of Prayer — Brian G. Najapfour

4. William Perkins on the Lord’s Prayer — J. Stephen Yuille

5. Anthony Burgess on Christ’s Prayer for Us Joel R. Beeke

6. John Bunyan on Praying with the Holy Spirit Michael A. G. Haykin

7. The Puritans on the Help of the Holy Spirit in Prayer Johnny C. Serafini

8. Matthew Henry on a Practical Method of Daily Prayer Joel R. Beeke

9. Thomas Boston on Praying to Our Father — Joel R. Beeke

10. Jonathan Edwards on Prayer and the Triune God Peter Beck

11. Puritan Prayers for World Missions — Joel R. Beeke

12. Prayerful Praying Today — Joel R. Beeke

Bibliography

Scripture Index

Subject Index

Here are the endorsements of Jerry Bridges, Derek W. H. Thomas, Hughes Oliphant Old, Sinclair Ferguson, & Don Whitney for the book:

Taking Hold of God is a veritable gold mine on the subject of prayer. Beeke and Najapfour have brought together in one volume the teaching on prayer of the giants of the Reformation and Puritan eras: Luther, Calvin, Knox, Perkins, Bunyan, Henry, Edwards, and others. I was personally encouraged and stimulated to take my own prayer life to a higher and hopefully more productive level. All believers who have any desire to pray effectively will profit from this book.”

— JERRY BRIDGES, a longtime staff member of the Navigators and author of The Pursuit of Holiness


“Together, Beeke and Najapfour have produced a marvelously help­ful and instructive volume on prayer drawn from such giants as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, and Jonathan Edwards. It is a veritable potpourri of spiritual insight and godly advice. Books on prayer often induce more guilt than help. Taking Hold of God, as the title itself suggests, aims at doing the latter. It beckons us, allures us, into the challenge of prayer itself: laying hold of a gracious Father who longs for our presence and delights to commune with His children. If you aim to read just one book on prayer this year, choose this one.”

— DEREK W. H. THOMAS, John E. Richards Professorof Systematic and Practical Theology, ReformedTheological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi


“The Protestant Reformation brought a revolution to the life of prayer. This book opens up the story of how the Reformers like Luther and Calvin, followed by the Puritans like William Perkins and Matthew Henry, teach us a surprisingly new approach to the life of prayer.”

— HUGHES OLIPHANT OLD, John H. Leith Professorof Reformed Theology and Worship, ErskineTheological Seminary, Due West, South Carolina


“Here is a master stroke indeed! — a book on the prayer-filled lives and teaching of nine masters of the Christian life (plus others included for good measure).

“Many of us feel either infants in the school of prayer or intimi­dated and beaten down by those who accuse us of being prayer-less but do not teach us how to be prayer-full. But here can be found nourishment, example, instruction, encouragement, and, yes, deep challenge, all in one volume. May these pages serve as a tonic for our weakness, a remedy for our sickness, and an inspiration to greater prayerfulness in our churches!”

— SINCLAIR B. FERGUSON, senior minister of FirstPresbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina,and professor of Systematic Theology at Redeemer Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas


“Here is a great vault of spiritual riches for anyone who wants to learn more about prayer and be encouraged to pray whether you consider yourself Reformed or a student of the Puritans or not.

“But if some of the names in the table of contents are already favorites of yours, you will enjoy this book even more. This is a valuable book, and I am very grateful for those whose work made it possible.”

— DON WHITNEY, associate professor of BiblicalSpirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

 

Click here to view sample pages.

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