Review: The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray by Kevin DeYoung

Most of us know that we should pray more often. We do not need a book to tell us this. We only need to consider our own daily prayers to see our failures. If we already know this, then why bother reading another book on prayer?

In his succinct book The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray, pastor and theologian Kevin DeYoung answers that question. Part of Crossway’s “Foundational Tools for our Faith Series,” this book focuses not on our failures in prayer, since we need no reminder in that area. Rather, he seeks to equip Christians with a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Prayer so that we would better use this timeless prayer as model and tool for our own prayers.

The content and structure of this book are straightforward. It is a concise exposition and practical application of the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew’s Gospel, including the familiar doxology at the end. In each chapter, the author walks the reader through a clause of the Lord’s Prayer, briefly expositing the text and providing insight from both his pastoral ministry and life experiences so that the reader would be encouraged to use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for their own prayers. Rather than exhorting Christians to pray more often, this book is for readers who seek to better comprehend the prayer that Christ has given his church and how to use it as their own.

The author opens by contextualizing the Lord’s Prayer with Jesus’ opening statement, “When you pray.” Here, he provides insight and background on the Lord Jesus’ exhortation to pray for the right reasons instead of for attention as the hypocrites do.

In the second chapter, he begins his exposition with the first clause of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father.” DeYoung emphasizes properly orienting ourselves towards the majesty of the one to whom we pray. He asks, “when our prayers are dull and boring, might it be because our conception of God is dull and boring?”1 He also reminds the reader that the Lord’s Prayer is a communal prayer, “The most important takeaway from [the term] our is that prayer is a corporate event.”2

Moving on to the next clause, in his third chapter, regarding “Thy Kingdom Come,” the author seeks to familiarize the reader with the biblical conception of the kingdom of God. He helpfully describes the kingdom of God as, “God’s redemptive presence coming down from heaven to earth.”3 In addition to explaining what the kingdom of God is, DeYoung also shows what the kingdom of God is not. He writes, “In praying these petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, we are not laying down a blueprint for cultural renewal or societal transformation. We are praying for a miracle of God’s regenerating power and redemptive grace.”4

The fourth chapter, titled “Our Daily Bread,” is the most practically applicable chapter. In it, he encourages his reader towards a spirit of contentment, gratitude, and dependence upon God, even for the things we often take for granted. He states, “We do glorify God by trying to do things on our own so as not bother him . . . He can receive all your requests . . . We glorify God by coming to him each day for our daily bread.”5

The fifth chapter, “Our Debts,” is perhaps the most pastoral. Here, DeYoung covers forgiving others and asking forgiveness from God. He encourages the reader with this, “[This clause is] a statement of recognition. Only the one who forgives can expect to be forgiven . . . the one who knows that his sins have been forgiven by God will, in turn, be eager to forgive those who sin against him.”6

DeYoung’s exposition of “Lead us not into temptation” in the sixth chapter is yet another profitable exposition and practical application of the Lord’s Prayer. Particularly helpful is his commentary on the temptation of the Lord Jesus in the wilderness by Satan and the way in which he connects it both to Adam and Eve in the Garden and to the Christian life. He concludes, “We know we are in spiritual danger, but we must also never forget that we have a heavenly Father who would love to give us all the protection we need . . . to guide us and to guard us and to protect us, if only we would pray.”7

The benefits of this book come not only from the pithy expositions of each clause of the Lord’s Prayer, but also in the application. Like a good sermon, each chapter takes what was taught and helpfully applies it to the reader. A particular highlight of this book is the brief discussion in the third chapter on the kingdom of God, especially regarding DeYoung’s description of the already-not-yet aspect of the kingdom. Not only does it serve as a good introduction to the nature of the kingdom for readers perhaps new to Biblical theology, but it also open’s the reader’s understanding of what the supplicant is praying for when they pray “thy kingdom come.”

This book is recommended for anyone who already knows they need to pray more but would like to grow in their understanding of why, what, and how to pray. Reading this easily accessible book would be a useful endeavor for Church study groups, as it comes with a study guide in the appendices. DeYoung’s The Lord’s Prayer would perhaps be used best as a supplement for anyone going through expositions of the Lord’s Prayer in the Westminster Larger Catechism (185–96) or in the Heidelberg Catechism (118–29). It is an encouraging read for Christians who already know they need to pray more, but who also seek to grow in their understanding of this timeless tool given to us by the Lord Jesus for our own prayers.

Notes

  1. Kevin DeYoung, The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2022), 32.
  2. Ibid, 34.
  3. Ibid, 39.
  4. Ibid, 50.
  5. Ibid, 69.
  6. Ibid, 80.
  7. Ibid, 96.

© Scott McDermand II. All Rights Reserved.


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