Prayer and grief are two things that every Christian will encounter in their lives, many on a daily basis. I typically read at least one book a week throughout the year, and wanted to share two of the best theological books that I have read this year on the topics of grief and prayer.
I Didn’t Know How Difficult It Would Be! Personal Thoughts of a Grieving Husband and Father
by Arnoud T. Vergunst
In this short book, Rev. Vergunst shares pastoral thoughts and advice from his own experience dealing with grief. His wife died from a brain tumor at the age of twenty-nine, leaving him behind with five small children. The book is readable and practical, dealing with sorrow and loss from a very personal point of view.
Throughout the book, Vergunst is careful to avoid a “one size fits all” approach to grief. He mentions that the different reactions to grief will vary from person to person depending on their personality and other factors. In seeking to help us understand what it is like to lose a loved one, his illustrations are extremely helpful: “Compare it with a kitchen that endured the shaking of a heavy earthquake. Everything that had its normal place within the cupboards has now fallen every which way on the floor among the chairs and the table. It takes time before everything is given a place in your life again, and that journey will also be accompanied with various emotions.” Some of the emotions are resistance, numbness, confusion, anger, anxiety or fear, guilt feelings, and depression.
Vergunst gives practical help to those who seek to walk alongside a mourner. We should ask about the loss, take time to listen, ask for a photo, and share memories about the person who has died. He says that we should: “Just listen, without judging, without all kinds of answers and great (biblical) truths, without arguments or advice.” In listening, we should be prepared for chaos, realize that being silent is extremely hard, and ask questions. Vergunst closes his book with a helpful meditation on Psalm 77.
This book has already helped me to relate better to those mourning the loss of a loved one, and I highly recommend it.
96 pages, published by Reformed Fellowship. https://reformedfellowship.net/products/i-didnt-know-how-difficult-it-would-be-personal-thoughts-of-a-grieving-husband-and-father
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
by Paul E. Miller
Do you ever think that you need to improve in your prayers? In the midst of a plethora of books on prayer, Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life stands out as an important and valuable resource that will help you to make lasting changes and learn to see God at work in your life and the lives of those around you.
Miller divides his book into five parts: Learning to Pray like a Child, Learning to Trust Again, Learning to Ask Your Father, Living in Your Father’s Story, and Praying in Real Life. Miller emphasizes the importance of seeing prayer as a relationship: “Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other.” He also clearly explains the importance of prayer: “If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.”
Miller spends time examining the enemies of prayer, especially cynicism, naïve optimism, and failing to become like little children when we pray. He then talks about what we don’t ask for – material things, wisdom, change in others, and character change in me. For each point, he clearly explains why this particular issue is a problem and what steps we can take to address it. He has excellent sections on living in our Father’s story and lamenting when we don’t see prayers answered.
The key to praying well is not reading a book; it is actually praying. For this reason, please consider reading this book with an accountability partner. Together, you can find ways to implement more prayer in your lives. You can share prayer stories and encourage each other.
288 pages, published by NavPress. https://www.navpress.com/p/a-praying-life/9781631466830