Book Review

"Praying with Jesus: Getting to the Heart of the Lord’s Prayer," by Adriel Sanchez: A Review

Sarah White
Friday, June 7th 2024
Three landscapes on a black background with the quote: "Our prayers delight God like incense."

Praying with Jesus: Getting to the Heart of the Lord’s Prayer
by Adriel Sanchez
New Growth Press, 2024
134 pages (paperback), $16.99

Martin Luther called the Lord’s Prayer “the greatest martyr on earth. For everyone tortures and abuses it; few joyfully use it correctly for comfort.” In Praying with Jesus: Getting to the Heart of the Lord’s Prayer, pastor and Core Christianity radio host Adriel Sanchez seeks to rescue the beleaguered prayer by showing Christians how to find “not only the gospel, but the entirety of heavenly doctrine” in its petitions (2).

Sanchez devotes the first part of the book to providing some general teaching on prayer, laying the groundwork for a specific study of the Lord’s Prayer. First, he emphasizes that true prayer is an expression of the humble heart and that our imperfect prayers receive a hearing in heaven through Jesus. He cautions against hypocrisy (putting on a show) and superstition (using prayer as a magic formula). He also comments on the use of prayer postures in Scripture and throughout church history. He makes the valuable point that, though they can be just “going through the motions,” postures like kneeling, standing, or raising hands in prayer can be like push-starting a stubborn car—they can help get the heart into the right gear (26). I appreciated his acknowledgment that even though we are made to worship God as whole people, we also inhabit a fallen world, and our minds, bodies, hearts, and wills don’t work together as smoothly as we might wish.

Similarly, he touches on the importance of developing a structured discipline of daily prayer, since after all, “Prayer that is only prompted by feelings will always result in praying less than we need to” (33). Even when urging greater consistency, however, he isn’t heavy-handed in his counsel, wanting readers to receive prayer as a gift given to us through Christ and not a chore we have to grit our teeth through. Sanchez knows that most Christians find the idea of a regular, structured practice of prayer daunting, and his book’s burden is not to pretend that prayer is always easy, but to show that the prayer Jesus taught us provides a ready pattern.

Simple in structure, Part Two simply walks readers through each of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. He unpacks each petition exegetically and theologically, offering pastoral application for how its truths inform a believer’s daily walk with Jesus and can shape their communion with him in prayer. Each chapter closes with a sample prayer from a trusted stalwart from church history that readers are encouraged to read slowly and make their own. There are also suggested prayer practices, often scriptural passages that readers are encouraged to meditate on, or simple ways of folding daily prayer around one’s existing habits, or paying attention to specific needs and marking the ways God answers them through the week. Finally, there are also questions to help facilitate group discussion of each chapter’s content.

While it isn’t necessary to go through each chapter in detail, I will highlight a few motifs I appreciated throughout. For example, I was thankful for the steady emphasis on the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our salvation. Sanchez makes the case that understanding the Trinitarian nature of our salvation isn’t simply an interesting footnote; rather, this truth should ripple through our lives each day. As pointed out in Chapter Four, “Our Father in Heaven,” the doctrine of adoption teaches that our adoption as sons of God is the work of all three divine Persons, so praying “Our Father” “[teaches] us about the rescuing love of the Holy Trinity.” This teaching inevitably shapes the heart-attitude with which we pray, as our “Father invites [us] to excavate the artifacts of his grace” in prayer (44). In other words, we learn to pray with a deepening awareness that, in the Son and by the Spirit, he is truly our Father, and to grow in corresponding trust and adoration. I also appreciated the book’s churchly emphasis. The prayer’s very beginning, with the plural “Our Father,” constantly reminds us that even when we struggle to pray, we aren’t alone: we are wrapped in the corporate prayers of the church, individually “roped in as the people of God,” with Jesus, our Intercessor, as our captain (49). In Chapter Six, “Thy Kingdom Come,” Sanchez notes that when we ask for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying, among other things, for the expansion and health of his church.

Sanchez quotes an array of writers from across church history, such as Tertullian, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Herman Witsius, many of whom have written specifically and at length on the Lord’s Prayer. I was surprised that he didn’t incorporate the rich, petition-by-petition examinations of the Lord’s Prayer found in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Larger Catechism, or at least direct readers to them as a resource (although their content certainly informs Sanchez’s own writing). The catechism questions and answers were written with the goal of helping believers learn to pray and, as such, would be an ideal companion to this book.

The biggest strength of Praying with Jesus is that Christians across the spectrum of age and experience can profit from it. Its study of each of the petitions isn’t meant to be exhaustive. However, each chapter offers a “hook” that can prompt deeper reflection on the words of the prayer and clearer intention when we repeat them. A seasoned believer can find something new to reflect on in every chapter, or a new angle from which to look at a long-cherished truth. At the same time, the invitingly pastoral, conversational style will encourage newer believers to lay hold of these truths for themselves. As such, this book could be a sound resource even for new members’ classes or youth groups.

Not only is it accessible, but the book quietly demonstrates that rich theology is the birthright of every Christian, shaping our lives and fueling our praise, regardless of whether we ever attend seminary or are disposed to read large chunks of Calvin or Bavinck. For instance, I found Sanchez’s point that there’s a difference between God’s secret will and his revealed will a crucially important and comforting distinction that shapes how we pray for God’s will to be done, and clarifies the daily obedience to which we’re called. (I was particularly impressed here that Sanchez takes the time to introduce the ancient Monothelite controversy and explain why it’s vital to our salvation that the incarnate Son had both a human and a divine will! (82-83))

Indeed, Sanchez shows that the Lord’s Prayer is essentially an abstract of the deep truths of our faith, and no Christian could exhaust the riches found in each petition in their lifetime. He wants readers to learn to “take the scenic route through each petition,” trusting that our prayers, “sweeten[ed]” by Christ, delight God like incense (127). Though learning to pray this way doesn’t happen in a week, and surely can’t be mastered in a lifetime (it’s a costly sacrifice (128)), it is more than worth it.

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  • Adriel Sanchez, Praying with Jesus: Getting to the Heart of the Lord’s Prayer (New Growth Press, 2024), 3.

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Sarah White
Sarah White (M.Div., Yale Divinity School), lives in western Pennsylvania with her family.
Friday, June 7th 2024

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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