Much like his other book How Readest Thou?, J.C. Ryle’s A Call to Prayer is short but incredibly powerful, and not to be missed. Throughout a meaty 46 pages, Ryle exhorts the believer to consider the power and (above all) the absolute necessity of prayer.
Written with the great Bishop’s winning
combination of candor and warmth, and firmly
rooted in Holy Scripture, A Call to Prayer is one of those solid Christian books which I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s a trumpet blast – and a loud one – charging God’s children to shake off spiritual apathy and give prayer its due priority. For prayer is one of the chief things by which man may measure his status before God. “Tell me what a man’s prayers are,” Ryle writes, “and I will soon tell you the state of his soul. Prayer is the spiritual pulse.”
According to Ryle, there is no duty in the Christian religion so neglected as prayer. Cutting to the heart of the issue, he tolerates no excuses, no pretense, no question dodging. He simply asks, “Do you pray?”
[Men] eat. They drink. They sleep. They rise. They go forth to their labour. They return to their homes. They breathe God’s air. They see God’s sun. They walk on God’s earth. They enjoy God’s mercies. They have dying bodies. They have judgment and eternity before them. But they never speak to God. They live like beasts that perish. They behave like creatures without souls. They have not one word to say to Him in whose hand are their life and breath, and all things, and from Whose mouth they must one day receive their everlasting sentence. How dreadful this seems; but if the secrets of men were only known, how common.
Yet Ryle doesn’t stop at condemning such neglect; he also gives attention to how a person ought to pray. In particular, he commends to us the importance of praying with reverence (Eccles. 5:2) and humility (Gen. 18:22), spiritually (Jude 1:20), as a regular part of the business of life (Dan. 6:10), with perseverance (1 Thess. 5:17), in earnestness (Jas. 5:16), with faith (Mark 11:24), with boldness (Exod. 32:12), with fullness (Ps. 81:10), on behalf of others (2 Thess. 1:11), and with thankfulness (Phil. 4:6).
In conclusion, I’ll simply get out of the way and let Ryle speak for himself:
Oh, let us keep an eye continually upon our private devotions. Here is the pith and marrow of practical Christianity. Sermons and books and tracts, and comittee-meetings and the company of good men, are all good in their way, but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer…
I want the times we live in to be praying times. I want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the Church to be a praying church. My heart’s desire and prayer in sending forth this tract is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those who never prayed yet, to arise and call upon God, and I want those who do pray, to see that they are not praying amiss.