Author: Rick Hamlin
Title: 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without
Publisher: Guideposts

If you’re looking for a new devotional book about prayer that’s full of inspiring stories, references to famous people, and some encouraging scripture references, you’ll probably enjoy 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without by Rick Hamlin. If you’re looking for a new devotional about prayer that’s also theologically accurate, however, you should probably skip Hamlin’s latest book. It’s not that Hamlin, the executive editor of Guideposts magazine, isn’t sincere in his enthusiasm for prayer. Or that he’s not a good storyteller.  Or that he hasn’t met some amazing people during his career. It’s that the second sentence in his book is wrong.

And a lot of other things as well.

His second sentence reads, “You can’t fail at it [prayer].” Yet that is absolutely incorrect, isn’t it? John MacArthur, for example, lists 15 reasons why God will not respond to certain prayers. These are mostly prayers that come from unbelievers, but they can also come from believers refusing to repent of certain sins. Prayer is communication between people saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ, and God. 

Amen? It is not simply a social, emotional, experiential, and religious activity in which anybody can claim to participate. Instead, throughout 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without, Hamlin weaves a rich narrative about communicating with God that, unfortunately, seduces the unwary reader with theologically impoverished ideas of what prayer is about. Within some segments of our evangelical community, Guideposts already has a dubious reputation as a purveyor of cultural Christianity at the expense of Biblical Christianity, and Hamlin’s complicity in his magazine’s flaws carries over into his own literature.

Perhaps the most stunning flaw in his perspective on prayer comes not in what he puts in this book, but what he writes in his blog on Huffington Post. In responding to his atheist son’s question about praying to Somebody in Whom you don’t believe, Hamlin crafts this disturbingly humanistic answer:

"When many people are holding on to the same good thought, you have to trust that the universe responds." 

Or in another Huffington Post blog entry, when he didn’t feel like praying to God, but wanted to send out thank-you notes to well-wishers, Hamlin reasons: “I sensed a connection to the universe, a sureness that life was not without a purpose, and I told myself, ‘This will be prayer for now.’” 

While Hamlin’s book does contain some good ideas for a healthy prayer life, such as praying for others, praying before every meal, and spicing up one’s prayers by singing them, his omissions are glaring. He never touches on the Sinner’s Prayer that gets one’s prayer life rolling in the first place. He never talks about adoring God for Who He is and the fact that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has provided us with direct access into His throne room. And all of his lavishly-told stories have happy endings. What happens, however, when the things for which we pray don’t turn out the way we’d hoped?

As entertainment, 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without is an easy read, and that’s about as high an accolade as this book deserves. Meanwhile, if you’re really hunting for a devotional on prayer, plenty of better resources exist that handle the topic with genuine theological integrity.

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” indeed.

*This Article First Published 4/19/2013