It has always seemed to me that the late 19th and early 20th century produced some of the best works on prayer. EM Bounds, Harry Fosdick, RA Torrey, AW Tozer, Andrew Murry, Hudson Taylor and many others wrote some of the most read classics on prayer.
I have read a number of books on prayer from this era. Many of them are quite good. But many of them verge on moralism. I do think there is something to sin separating us from God. But it can go too far when the work of prayer depends upon our own work. There has to be some partnership between us and the Holy Spirit in prayer. But most of the time when I read descriptions of that partnership I am dissatisfied with the result.
The parts that are most helpful in this books is the practical Equipment for prayer section. The first chapters are good motivation for prayer. But once you have some motivation you actually have to start to get any where. So McIntyre suggest that we need three things, a quiet place, a quiet hours and a quiet heart. Even written 100 years ago there was acknowledgement that all three are hard to do in this modern world.
In many ways it is that easy. Prayer is about submission to God. So in a world where we usually can do almost anything for ourselves (we do not have to pray for rain for our crops, or worry about roving armies or pray for safety to get to market, or fear actual persecution for our faith.) So more than anything else it is the attitude that I think that is hard about prayer.
I think that the weakness of many of the authors of this time was a lack of appreciation of the history of the church. This may be the biggest strength and weakness of this book. McIntyre was very well read on the history of the church and the writings of the church fathers. This book is filled with quote after quote after quote. And while he is clearly knowledgable about scripture, several others have noted quite rightly that scripture is not the main source for the book.
So while I appreciate that there was some good in this book it was not a great book on prayer. But it is short and you can get a free copy. And if you have not read much on prayer from this era, you might enjoy it. Personally I would suggest EM Bounds first. His books are all public domain and should be readily available on an ereader or paperback.
Note: Tim Challies recently hosted a blog discussion of this book on his blog.
- The Hidden Life of Prayer (challies.com)