Show all

Praying Always by Frans Bakker – A Book Review

Praying Always

Praying Always. By Frans Bakker. Translated by Cornelis and Fredrika Pronk. Reprinted 2011. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987. 114 pages.

“Prayer is the breath of the soul.” So writes Frans Bakker in his book, Praying Always. What is more precious to the body than breath? If it ceases, the body dies. It is one of the most basic evidences of life, being essential for life to continue. Prayer is the same for the soul. It is vital. Bakker writes to persuade us of this. He also writes to diagnose underlying problems, encourage the weak-hearted, and draw us before the throne of grace where our Savior reigns.

Frans Bakker (1919-1965) may be an unfamiliar name to many. Ordained in 1956, he ministered in the Netherlands for a relatively brief period of under ten years before his early death. This work, originally titled, Facets of Prayer, was widely read in Dutch. We are grateful that it was translated to English and has continued in print for several decades now. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, it was translated by Rev. Cornelis Pronk and his wife, Fredrika.

Many books on prayer focus on methods and tactics helping us to approach prayer. While this book hints at methods and sometimes provides tactics, it has a different aim. Its aim is experimental. While it includes instruction, it asks direct questions to the reader. It provides plain warnings, warm encouragements, and helpful reminders. It is clearly set on assessing and cultivating our habits of prayer. However, above all, it beckons us to pray to the Savior. Though vital, it is not strictly prayer that gives life. It is Christ that gives life, and Bakker keeps this before the reader. He avoids making prayer a meritorious work. This is no self-help book on prayer – a welcome relief from many works today.

It is not a thorough study on the topic, hence its original title, Facets of Prayer. It treats of twelve topics, mostly characteristics of true or false prayer: secret, persevering, improper, arrogant, humble, bold, true, pleading, effectual, thankful, unfulfilled, and too late. The brevity and simplicity may cause some to look elsewhere for help with prayer. However, all who read it will discover that what is simple is not always simplistic. The pages are filled with rich counsel and high thoughts of grace.

This book offers biblical teaching, experimental warmth, and a simple style while addressing a vital topic for all Christians. This combination commends the book to a wide audience. The actual material of the most recent printing runs only 94 pages divided into 12 chapters. Busy mothers, young people, and businessmen can sit down for a short break and take in edifying thoughts. There are many good commitments we must keep. However, while children, schedules, and reports must have their proper focus, our prayer closets must have theirs as well. Here is a book that will guide us to the closet and, while in it, to the throne of grace.

Among other uses, the book is well-suited for families to read together. This is particularly true for those down times of the Sabbath. At the end of the Sabbath, many of us will have had our secret and family devotions, attended two services of worship, and enjoyed fellowship with the saints. Yet, even at the end of this, we often have pockets of time needing to be redeemed. Some can enter the works of Turretin, Rutherford, and Owen even after long and full days. We certainly long for the day when more will read the works of these masters. However, many of us need something edifying but accessible for a wide range of ages. Here is such a book. Additionally, the chapters are rather short and the sentences very simple. Even with young children, a family can sit down and read a chapter, with a few comments or questions, and then spend time in prayer.

Praying Always has gone through several English printings, and, so long as Christians yearn for help in the secret place, it should continue to remain in circulation. Here are a few quick excerpts from throughout the book to whet your appetite that you might make it part of your family’s reading. More than this, may your reading of it lead you to pour out your soul before the throne of grace.

We do not overstate when we say that there is no spiritual life if the activity of secret prayer is missing. Prayer is the breath of the soul.

What is a church without prayer? No more than an army without weapons. Prayer is the power of the church of God.

Some people say that they have prayed enough already, and so they stop. This proves that the need of the soul does not weigh heavy enough. Those who have a true need cannot stop; they would rather die at the feet of Christ than stop.

We cannot be at the throne of grace too often; we can never ask too much of the Lord, only too little. Therefore do not stop, do not give up!

There is a Redeemer for the debts you owe and it is a Savior’s joy to freely bestow His meritorious grace on publicans and sinners. We are never too wicked to come to Jesus. We can only be too good in our own eyes.

Child of God, boldness isn’t found in yourself or in your works or prayers. All your works cannot open the entrance to the throne of grace. There comes a time when God closes heaven to teach you that there is no approach to God without Christ, and you learn that your prayer is not worth anything unless the praying high priest makes intercession for you.

Jonathan D. Mattull
Jonathan D. Mattull
Rev. Jonathan Mattull serves the congregation of Sovereign Grace Presbyterian Church (FCC) in St. Louis. He received his formal theological training through Covenant Theological Seminary and distance courses through the Free Church Seminary in Inverness, Scotland. He is married with three children.