Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado
It is hard for me to imagine that I would ever be disappointed by a book by Max Lucado. I have read all of them and enjoyed each one very much until now. In his newest book, Before Amen, Lucado explores the power of a simple prayer. While I agree with the author that prayer is indeed powerful and that God answers prayer, this work comes very close to promising that the book's "pocket prayer" is virtually guaranteed to get an answer. This led not only to my disappointment but also may lead the reader to a misunderstanding of the nature of prayer and the ways God answers.
Still, there are some gems in this book. Lucado uses his own relationship with his daughter to point out how God invites us to approach Him as little children approach their own parents with complete trust. Kids ask because they understand that their parents are usually good to them. We as God's creation ask Him because He is good, and able to provide all that we need. Many of us are most likely to pray when we or one of our loved ones is sick. We pray, "Lord heal me, heal him/her." Lucado points out that Jesus hears these prayers, is moved by these prayers, and answers them with immediate healing, gradual healing, or, for those who have faith in Him, ultimate healing.
This idea of ultimate healing leads nicely into the chapter on forgiveness. In a brief, clear look at the Day of Atonement ritual of Judaism, Lucado illustrates how the guiltless scapegoat takes away the sin of the sinful. Lucado encourages us to place our sin on the true sin-bearer and be assured that our sin is forgiven. In the chapter "They Need Help," Lucado uses several examples from scripture to illustrate the importance of praying for others and for being persistent in those prayers. In another (rather disappointing) chapter Lucado provides an alphabetical list of things that he is thankful for. The encouragement to be thankful in all things and at all times is well taken, but the method comes off as gimmicky. In the final chapter, Lucado explains why so many of our prayers are offered in Jesus' name. It is a good reminder of the power and privilege we have because of Jesus.
This book, like many of Lucado's previous works, comes with an included study guide written by Lucado's daughter. The study encourages the reader to delve deeper into each chapter by using the acronym "P.R.A.Y." (Personalize, Reflect, Abide, and Yield). The acronym tool was not my favorite, but the study itself includes many helpful Bible verses to explore and some good questions to help the reader develop a richer prayer life.
If you are looking for a quick introduction to prayer, then Before Amen may be of some help. For a true Lucado treatment of prayer, though, I recommend The Great House of God, which is an excellent study of the Lord's Prayer.
Submitted by Jim Ritter, Library Clerk