Michael Youssef’s book, Life Changing Prayers: How God Displays His Power to Ordinary People contains seven chapters, each one focusing on a familiar person from scripture. He weaves insights about the practice of prayer with life lessons, making the book less of a “how to pray” manual and rather more of a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people whose circumstances caused them to pray extraordinary prayers. You do learn a lot about prayer, but also you learn about the history, context, and setting that produced the kind of prayer that changes us as well as moves God’s heart.
My favorite chapter was on Daniel and the reminder of praying for God’s glory above all and trusting Him for the future. As Daniel fervently repented for the sins of His people, he called out for God to restore them to Jerusalem, according to His promise, not just to rescue the people, but for the sake of His own name and glory. Youssef writes:
In my humanness, I want to alleviate all the suffering I see. But in my spirit, as I seek to be sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit, I pray that God would be glorified, first and foremost. And often, God is glorified through our weakness and our sufferings. When we get to know God as deeply as Daniel knew Him, when we begin to love God as truly as Daniel loved Him, then we begin to care more about God’s glory than our own needs and wants. Our prayer life changes. We begin to pray, first and foremost, that God would be glorified through our lives. God wants His name to be glorified even more than we do. So when we seek first the glory of God, we are aligning our wills with His will. We are aligning our purposes with His purpose. We are aligning our hearts with His heart. We are aligning our desires with His desires. And that’s when God delights in answering our prayers.
Youssef is obviously someone who loves history and reads and researches, as the book is peppered throughout with illustrations and stories from history which reinforce the practical applications. This brings the life lessons into our own culture and makes them relevant to our daily lives. In his epilogue, he reminds us of the purpose of prayer: not to change God but to allow to change us. By reading and learning from the prayers of ordinary people in scripture, we too can pray those “effective” prayers that accomplish much.
I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books for my unbiased review. You can find your copy here (not an affiliate link).