R.A.  Torrey

Recommendation:   3/5

Description of author:   R.A. Torrey (1856-1928), educated at Yale, was an evangelist, Bible teacher, and pastor.  He was superintendent of Moody Bible Institute for 19 years and the author of 40 books.

Comments:  In many respects this is an excellent book on prayer.  I can not give it a 5-star rating however because there are things in it which I can not endorse.  Although on the whole I have greatly appreciated Torrey’s writings for their simplicity and helpfulness (e.g. ‘How to Study the Bible’), he is generally writing from an Arminian (as opposed to Calvinistic) perspective which does have serious ramifications at many points.  In this particular book it especially shows up in Torrey’s discussion of revival and Charles Finney (chapter 12).

But there are many excellent things to be learned in this little volume.  He begins with 10 reasons prayer is important (chapter 1).  Included are (1) There is a devil; (2) Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things; (3) The Apostles regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives; (4) Prayer occupied a very prominent place in the earthly life of our Lord; (5) Praying is the most important part of the present ministry of our risen Lord; (6) Prayer is the means that God has appointed for our receiving mercy, and obtaining grace to help in time of need; (7) Prayer is the way Christ has appointed for His disciples to obtain fullness of joy; (8) Prayer is the means that God has appointed for our obtaining freedom from all anxiety; (9) Prayer is the means that Christ has appointed whereby our hearts are prepared for the coming of the Lord; (10) Because of what prayer accomplishes.  These 10 reasons, all of them excellent, could perhaps be reduced to one:  Prayer is the God-appointed means by which we receive His promised blessings.  I do not think Torrey overstates the case when he claims that ‘the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer’ (p. 9).  Again, he writes:  ‘There is infinite grace at our disposal, and we make it ours experimentally by prayer.  Oh, if we only realized the fullness of God’s grace that is ours for the asking, its height and depth and length and breadth, I am sure that we would spend more time in prayer’ (p. 14), and again:  ‘Time spent in prayer is not wasted, but time invested at big interest’ (p. 18).

In the remainder of the book Torrey elaborates some of the Biblical principles in regard to praying:  Obeying and Praying (chapter 3), Praying in the Spirit (chapter 5), Hindrances to Prayer (chapter 9), etc.  In my opinion perhaps one of the most important chapters in the book is chapter 7: ‘Abiding in Christ.’  In this brief chapter, Torrey considers the analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15.  This chapter almost summarizes what I believe the Bible teaches regarding Christian living (perhaps that is overly simplistic).  Torrey writes:  ‘Now for us to abide in Christ is for us to bear the same relation to Him that the first sort of branches bear to the vine; that is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or form our resolutions, or cultivate our feelings, and simply and constantly look to Christ to think His thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us.  It is to renounce all life independent of Christ and constantly to look to Him for inflow of His life into us, and the outworking of His life through us.  When we do this, and in so far as we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God’ (p. 57).  This life-long struggle to renounce self and abide in Christ is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through prayer and meditation on the Word.  Although Torrey’s words here might be misunderstood as a ‘let go and let God’ passivity, that is not what Torrey is teaching, and that certainly is not what Jesus is teaching in John 15.  O may the Lord teach us day by day how to pray!  This book may be helpful to that end.