Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History's Best Teachers
by Gary Neal Hansen
Reviewed by Clint Walker
As many readers of this blog may know, I am always have my eyes open for books that discuss spiritual formation and prayer, especially if they do so in a unique and thoughtful way. Recently, Intervarsity Press published a wonderful little survey methods for prayer by Gary Neal Hansen called Kneeling with Giants.
Kneeling with Giants approaches the subject of prayer by looking at how saints of old prayed throughout church history. This is a good idea. It allows readers to observe someone else's method of praying to see if it works for them. It allows Dr. Hansen to instruct his readers on how to pray without beating them over the head with how they "should" do this, or have to do that. Hansen approaches his topic with a lot of grace.
As an "NT" on my Myers-Briggs test, I was thankful to see that there were several models of praying in this book that engage the intellect in more than a perfunctory manner. In particular, I enjoyed the instruction from the Reformed Tradition--both the chapter on Calvin and on the Puritans.
The chapters I enjoyed most (Calvin and Ignatius) in particular, included some more detailed instruction on how the specific method of prayer was to be carried out. I enjoyed the "boxes" which asked leading questions and gave a few step by step guidelines to implementing the specific kind of prayer well. For several of the mystics, such as the description of the Jesus Prayer, this may have been less appropriate. But when I have a little "cheat sheet" I can copy off to use and share, I am a little better off.
Most books on prayer take two approaches. The either focus exclusively on intercession, or they neglect intercession for most of the book and focus on prayer as simply the exercise of spiritual disciplines. Thankfully, Kneeling with Giants goes to neither of these extremes. It presents a holistic view of prayer that will be helpful to people wherever they are on their spiritual journey.
I loved this book. I am hoping to use it some day as a primer on prayer for people who are beginning their walks with Christ, and seeking some guidance on prayer. I think Kneeling with Giants will be a helpful book for many, and an interesting study for most praying Christians.