Isaac Watts’ book A Guide to Prayer, is a helpful and practical guide to prayer. To Isaac Watts, prayer was more than a duty required in the worship of God. It was ‘the conversation which God allows us to maintain with himself above, while we are here below…in which the soul of a saint often gets near to God, experiences great delight and, as it were, dwells with his heavenly Father for a short time before he comes to heaven.’
But Watts knew that most Christians need help in the use of this great privilege, so that our prayers should be both acceptable to God and ‘a delightful and profitable exercise to our own souls and to those that join with us’.
Watts deals in turn with the nature of prayer, prayer viewed as a gift which can be developed, prayer as dependent on the fruits of divine grace, and the assistance of the Spirit of God in prayer. In his final chapter he brings forward several arguments to persuade all Christians to develop and use ‘this holy skill of conversation with God’.
A true Christian classic. Isaac Watts approaches prayer with both form and freedom. This is not a book of prayer, where prayers are given to us complete. Nor is it a mere call to prayer, instructing us to pray with no guidance, but rather it is a biblical structure to prayer, giving us a form by which to conform our prayer, but leaving the content to us.
Prayer is largely regarded as an improvised activity, to move as the person praying moves. The result of that idea has been, in my own prayers and many I've heard, almost a rambling and directionless prayer, full of distractions and pauses. What Watts advocates is more structure to these prayers. We should still pray for particular situations and events and thereby add our own content, but Watts uses the Bible to promote structure to hold up that personalized content.
The result has made an immediate difference in my prayer life. It has lost none of the personal nature, but has gained a direction and control that lacked before. I recommend this book to all Christians.