Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a South African pastor, wrote over 240 books, most of which are currently out of print. With Christ in the School of Prayer and Absolute Surrender are probably his most famous. Both are still widely read and useful for individual study, as well as small group discussions.
In With Christ in the School of Prayer Murray’s 31 “lessons” (chapters) on Christ’s teachings on prayer are short and concise. They truly fill your heart with a hunger for God’s presence. The chapters are meant to be studied not read casually. I love the way Murray ends each chapter with a God-centered prayer based on the lesson from Jesus’ life and ministry that has been studied.
As I read this 249 page book I underlined what I considered most important and made notes at the end of each chapter on ideas that struck me and areas I need to grow in. I found the book convicting. I came away from it with the realization that I have a long way to grow before being considered a real intercessor!
I need to learn to persevere in faith-filled prayer. Murray acknowledges that God does not always answer our prayers immediately; he suggests that part of the reason is God is seeking to build our faith. As my mentor once told me, prayer is perhaps the hardest and last discipline that a follower of Christ learns.
What especially struck me in reading this book is how Murray truly takes Jesus’ words on prayer literally. I was awed by how strongly he believes our prayers will be heard and answered. He takes seriously the unlimited prayer promises of Jesus like, “whatsoever,” “anything,” “what ye will,” and “ask and ye will receive.”
Murray absolutely believes that God changes what He is going to do based on our prayers. We can actually influence God by our prayers. Frankly, as someone who has a high view of the sovereignty of God, I struggled at first with this concept. I was encouraged by what theologian Wayne Grudem, who also has a high view of His sovereignty, wrote: “If we were really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts …. we would prayer much more than we do.”
As I was reading the book I often wished the author had given more real life illustrations of the prayer principles he was teaching, but then I discovered an appendix entitled “George Muller, and the Secret of His Power in Prayer”, which illustrates many of Murray’s teachings on prayer through Muller’s life. Both Murray and Muller strongly believed that we know God’s will from the Bible, but it is the Holy Spirit who applies the principles of the Word to our particular life situations.
I agree with these two spiritual giants that we should pray specifically and with faith and perseverance when we’re confident our prayers are clearly within God’s revealed will. However, my struggle is that there are times when I honestly don’t know if what I’m praying for is indeed in accordance with God’s will. This last section was helpful to me on this question as it spoke of a true situation in the life of George Muller. I’d like to share it because it may be helpful to you as it was to me.
At one point Muller wanted to know if it were God’s will for him to greatly expand his orphanage. If he did, it would necessitate much more money, and Muller had the conviction that he should ask no-one except God for money. Therefore, he prayed privately about this thought without telling anyone, even his wife. He just waited on God for His answer. I should add that at the same time he deeply pondered this question, even making lists of pros and cons. When he finally came to believe in his heart that this idea was from God, he persevered in faith-filled prayer until all the finances were in. What an example of faith!
While Murray’s writing style may be dated, and some of his language archaic, your heart and mind will be challenged by reading this book. It could even radically change your prayer life.
P.S. As a disclaimer, you should know that Andrew Murray is considered a significant proponent of the Keswick Movement or Higher Life Movement, which held to a view of sanctification, which many, including myself, consider biblically deficient or at least only a half-truth. Keswick theology has sometimes been characterized by the phrase “let go and let God.” Proponents believe that the victorious Christian life is produced solely by consecration to Christ which results in being filled with His Spirit. They do not emphasize our part in sanctification which the Bible teaches – obedience to His commands, discipline, perseverance, etc. (I encourage you to study what the Bible teaches about sanctification and come to your own conclusion.)