Books on prayer are too often like writer’s conferences.
That is, the people who read them are not praying, but reading about praying (like those who attend writer’s conferences are often not writing, but merely learning about writing).
For my money (and time), the only books on prayer worth reading are those that drive me to prayer. Here are some of my favorites:
Prayer, by Richard Foster. This has become a classic, like much of what Foster has written. When, in the book’s first paragraph, the author referred to “the agony of prayerlessness,” I knew just what he meant.
Living Prayer, by Robert Benson. I read this short book soon after God transformed my prayer life, with a little help from the Abbey of Gethsemani. It seems to me the most beautiful book on prayer I’ve ever read.
The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle. I will be indebted through eternity to Tickle for her highly usable aid to praying the hours. When I asked her to sign one of the three volumes in this set, I told her she had had a larger effect on my prayer life than anyone save the brothers of Gethsemani. She responded, “I am in good company, then.”
A Diary of Private Prayer, by John Baillie. Arranged into morning and evening prayers for 31 days (with additional prayers on Sundays), the prayers in this slim volume are honest, poetic, insightful, beautiful.
Lancelot Andrewes and His Private Devotions, tr. Alexander Whyte. There are several translations and versions of this Anglican bishop’s prayers. His prayers of confession alone suffice to show how weak and empty is our “modern” mode of prayer.
Answering God, by Eugene Peterson. This book will make a person fall in love with the psalms…and with prayer…and with God.
With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. This is rightly considered a classic. The chapters are short and powerful. So powerful that if this book fails to turn you to prayer, nothing will.
These are far from the only books on prayer that are worth reading (and re-reading). But they are the ones that have immeasurably enriched my prayer life…more than once.