The best prayer books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about prayer and why they recommend each book.

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Devotion

By Dani Shapiro,

Book cover of Devotion

When I teach creative nonfiction writing, I tell my students that the more personal you can make your story, the more deeply readers will connect with it. Broad generalizations just won’t do. Devotion by Dani Shapiro is one of those intimate, inward-looking memoirs that opens the reader to her own journey, even if that journey is completely unlike Shapiro’s own quest. In Devotion, Shapiro is struggling to help her infant son who has a life-threatening illness, while simultaneously undertaking a search for what she believes, for her faith. Her prose is lyrical. Her insights wash over you like ancient truths. By the end of the book, you will feel entertained, but also enlightened.


Who am I?

In 2010, Sandra A. Miller began hunting for a chest of gold coins buried in New York City soil. In her late forties at the time, she was mired in the process of helping her ailing mother to die, her teenage children to fly, and her writing career to survive the beating it had taken in the Great Recession and beyond. Soon enough, Sandra realized she was not just hunting for a treasure chest full of gold, but rather a different kind of riches. She had lost herself and needed to find a spiritual path that would lead her back home.


I wrote...

Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure

By Sandra A. Miller,

Book cover of Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure

What is my book about?

Trove is the story of a wife, mother, and writer whose life is upended when she begins an armchair treasure hunt—a search for $10,000 worth of gold coins buried in New York City, of all places with a man who, as she points out, is not her husband. In this eloquent, hilarious, multi-award-winning memoir, Sandra A. Miller grapples with the regret and confusion that so often accompanies middle age, and the shame of craving something more when she has so much already.

In a very real way, Miller has spent her life hunting for buried treasure. As a child, she trained herself to find things: dropped hair clips, shiny bits of broken glass, discarded lighters. Looking to escape from her volatile parents and often unhappy childhood, Miller found deeper meaning, and a good deal of hope, in each of these objects. Now an adult and facing the loss of her last living parent her mother who is at once cold, difficult, and wildly funny Miller finds herself, as she so often did as a little girl, pressed against a wall of her own longing. Her search for gold, which soon becomes an obsession, forces her to dredge up painful pieces of her past, confront the true source of her sorrow, and finally discover what it is she has been looking for all these years.

With Christ in the School of Prayer

By Andrew Murray,

Book cover of With Christ in the School of Prayer

If you’re looking for a well-loved prayer “classic,” you won’t find many books with more staying power than Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer. Murray doesn’t see prayer as one facet of the Christian life; rather, he says that it is the “root and strength” of all that we do. “Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach,” Murray writes, “only how to pray.” And the secret to a powerful prayer life is abiding in Christ—growing into his likeness—so that our lives (including our thoughts and desires) look more like his. As we enroll in Jesus’ “school of prayer", we will learn to pray in harmony with God, be equipped to impact our world, and discover the true purpose of prayer.


Who am I?

I’m often introduced as a “prayer expert” but I’m not. I’m just someone who’s found herself praying a lot—for my family, my friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. And while there are all sorts of ways we can pray, I like praying the Scriptures—taking the actual words of the Bible and using them to shape our perspective as well as our prayers. Not only has that approach made my conversations with God more diverse and creative, but it has made them more powerful. Plus, praying this way has equipped me to trust God and experience freedom from worry or fear—even when things don’t happen the way, or in the timing, that I want them to.


I wrote...

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

By Jodie Berndt,

Book cover of Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

What is my book about?

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life is the latest release in the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series. With short, easy-to-read chapters, this book invites you to experience a deeper intimacy with God and discover how connection to Christ equips us to live meaningful, satisfying, purposeful lives. The 31-day format includes select Bible readings, questions for reflection, and powerful prayers you can use to talk to God about every area of your life—from relationships to faith to finding freedom from worry and fear.

Live a Praying Life!

By Jennifer Kennedy Dean,

Book cover of Live a Praying Life!: Open Your Life to God's Power and Provision

Live a Praying Life is, hands-down, my top pick when it comes to making a study of prayer. Jennifer Kennedy Dean understands that we want to know the “why” and the “how” behind prayer, and she tackles the thorny questions to equip us to persevere when it doesn’t look like the needle is moving. In looking at the lives of folks who’ve gone through more than a few tricky places (guys like Joseph, who thought he was supposed to be a ruler but wound up being sold as a slave), Dean warns us not to mistake God’s will for his ways, or confuse what he is doing with how he is doing it. We only see part of the picture. And, she writes, “We cannot control God or tell him how to accomplish his plan.” We can, however, partner with him to accomplish his best purposes—and the way that we…


Who am I?

I’m often introduced as a “prayer expert” but I’m not. I’m just someone who’s found herself praying a lot—for my family, my friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. And while there are all sorts of ways we can pray, I like praying the Scriptures—taking the actual words of the Bible and using them to shape our perspective as well as our prayers. Not only has that approach made my conversations with God more diverse and creative, but it has made them more powerful. Plus, praying this way has equipped me to trust God and experience freedom from worry or fear—even when things don’t happen the way, or in the timing, that I want them to.


I wrote...

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

By Jodie Berndt,

Book cover of Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

What is my book about?

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life is the latest release in the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series. With short, easy-to-read chapters, this book invites you to experience a deeper intimacy with God and discover how connection to Christ equips us to live meaningful, satisfying, purposeful lives. The 31-day format includes select Bible readings, questions for reflection, and powerful prayers you can use to talk to God about every area of your life—from relationships to faith to finding freedom from worry and fear.

What Every Child Should Know about Prayer

By Nancy Guthrie,

Book cover of What Every Child Should Know about Prayer

Prayer isn’t just for grown-ups, and Nancy Guthrie invites children to experience the joy and peace that come with talking to God in her book, What Every Child Should Know about Prayer. With child-friendly language and inviting illustrations, each page in this book helps kids (and adults!) know how and why we should pray, whether we’re asking God to do something, telling him how we feel, or giving thanks for all the ways God shows us his love. As a fan of Bible-based prayers, I love the fact that every one of the lessons Guthrie teaches is rooted in Scripture, and I appreciate the simple—but oh-so-powerful—prayers she provides. I can’t wait to share this treasure with my grandchildren!


Who am I?

I’m often introduced as a “prayer expert” but I’m not. I’m just someone who’s found herself praying a lot—for my family, my friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. And while there are all sorts of ways we can pray, I like praying the Scriptures—taking the actual words of the Bible and using them to shape our perspective as well as our prayers. Not only has that approach made my conversations with God more diverse and creative, but it has made them more powerful. Plus, praying this way has equipped me to trust God and experience freedom from worry or fear—even when things don’t happen the way, or in the timing, that I want them to.


I wrote...

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

By Jodie Berndt,

Book cover of Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

What is my book about?

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life is the latest release in the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series. With short, easy-to-read chapters, this book invites you to experience a deeper intimacy with God and discover how connection to Christ equips us to live meaningful, satisfying, purposeful lives. The 31-day format includes select Bible readings, questions for reflection, and powerful prayers you can use to talk to God about every area of your life—from relationships to faith to finding freedom from worry and fear.

The Only Necessary Thing

By Henri J. M. Nouwen,

Book cover of The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

People have called Henri Nouwen many things: a priest, an author, a spiritual guide, a natural mystic. His books have sold millions of copies and continue to resonate deeply with people from all walks of life. In 2000, when asked to share the book that had most influenced her life, Hillary Clinton chose Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. The following sentence, in particular, she said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, hit her “like a lightning bolt”: "The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a "gift to be celebrated with joy." 

“I had never thought of gratitude as a habit or discipline before,” she explained, “and I discovered that it was immensely helpful to do so.” I first discovered Henri when I was eighteen years old and gifted with…


Who am I?

Christina Crook is a pioneer and leading voice in the field of digital well-being. She is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, the harbinger of the global #JOMO movement, and Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in a Digital Age. Christina regularly shares her insights about technology and our daily lives in international media including The New York Times, Psychology Today, and Harper's Bazaar which called her "The Marie Kondo of Digital.”


I wrote...

Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age

By Christina Crook,

Book cover of Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age

What is my book about?

What if there was a simple shift in thinking that could eliminate digital stress, reconnect us to the real world and give greater meaning to our lives? Christina Crook, the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out, reveals there is, and it’s in reach of all of us. In her new book, Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age offers concrete solutions for flourishing in the digital age.

Crook advocates for a realignment of our energies, online and off, towards effortful pursuits - cultivating relationships, community, and creative projects that bring lasting joy. But Good Burdens is more than actionable advice—it’s also a lively intellectual tour of this simple yet powerful idea, introducing readers to social media gurus, offline rebels, academics, and everyday heroes who have embraced the joy of missing out on the right things to make space for good burdens.

Earth Prayers

By Elizabeth Roberts, Elias Amidon,

Book cover of Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World

When I’m looking for an Earth-centered devotional for a multi-faith or interfaith gathering, this is where I turn. There are eleven parts with headings such as “A Sacred Place,” “Healing the Whole,” and “Cycles of Life,” that contain readings from nearly every religion, including Indigenous spiritualities. You can also use this as a personal devotional by reading one entry each day for a whole year’s worth of centering on Creation.


Who am I?

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  An ordained Lutheran minister since 2000, Leah has written five books, including three focusing on environment and faith. She has served as an anti-fracking and climate activist, community organizer, and advocate for environmental justice issues, She’s also the “EcoPreacher” blogger for Patheos.com. She has recently launched a partnership with the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development to create a monthly resource called EcoPreacher 1-2-3 for busy pastors wanting to address environmental issues in their sermons.


I wrote...

Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis

By Leah D. Schade, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas,

Book cover of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis

What is my book about?

Rooted and Rising is an edited volume intended for readers who are concerned about the climate crisis and who thirst for the wisdom and spiritual resources of fellow pilgrims grappling with despair. The book has 21 chapters by religious environmental activists from several different religious traditions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Quaker, Indigenous, and post-Christian punk.  Writers represent intersectionalities of different genders, races, LGBTQIA, ethnicities, ages, and geographic locations.  Each of the seven sections has discussion questions as well as spiritual practices, making it ideal for book groups. If you’re looking for inspiration to renew your capacity for compassionate, purposeful, even joyful action for the climate, this is the book for you.  

Draw the Circle

By Mark Batterson,

Book cover of Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge

Mark Batterson writes, “If you press into God’s presence like never before, you will experience God like never before.” This small book has led me back to a richer prayer life again and again. I’ve prayed through it many times and have given away countless copies to others. Each day Batterson invites a new way to look at prayer and a practical way to start a morning devotion time all grounded in scripture. As a writer I love the focus on creativity and honoring ideas. He writes, “I don’t type on a keyboard, I pray on one.” 


Who am I?

Books have been an important part of my faith journey. I set aside time each morning to read scripture, and devotional material, to meditate and pray. As I read about the experiences of others my faith increases and I know God better. As a writer I express my own faith through words and invite others to know God better by experiencing Him with time set aside in the mornings. More Love is part of a series of small books that I have created to give readers experiences to connect with God and to know His love. 


I wrote...

More Love: Experiencing God's Love

By Betsy Duffey,

Book cover of More Love: Experiencing God's Love

What is my book about?

Have you wondered about God? For those who have never known God, those who desire a deeper connection with God, or those who feel unworthy of love, this book is for you. More Love provides 30 short exercises, prayers, and reflections to help you experience God’s love. Through prayer, breathing, and imagery you can draw closer to God and experience His love.

Don't Give Up

By Kyle Idleman,

Book cover of Don't Give Up: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going

It’s far too tempting when we go through rough patches in our lives to want to give up. When we long for something and pray for years and still wait, quitting sounds like the best option. I nearly quit writing after twenty years of trying to break into publishing because I didn’t think I could take any more rejection. 

In this book, Idleman points out that some people come to Jesus expecting Him to make life easier. But life is hard. Idleman says, “One way we know we’re running the race marked out for us is the presence of regular, unexpected challenges.” 

Joseph could relate to that all his life. I can too.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with the subjects of forgiveness and reconciliation most of my life. I’ve spent years researching people of the Old Testament, and as I read their stories, I see their need for these things in their relationships. It is a universal need of humans. Because I write about people who actually lived, I read books that deal with the things we all face. Truth is, time may change, but the human heart does not. I’m an amateur theologian and avid reader of books that will help me grow as a person and allow me to understand these ancient people who walked before us.


I wrote...

The Prince and the Prodigal

By Jill Eileen Smith,

Book cover of The Prince and the Prodigal

What is my book about?

Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.

While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

I Heard God Laugh

By Matthew Kelly,

Book cover of I Heard God Laugh: A Practical Guide to Life's Essential Daily Habit

If all the other books I’ve recommended are like going on a good spiritual retreat, I Heard God Laugh is like hanging out at a backyard barbecue with your favorite neighbor. That’s not to say that Matthew Kelly isn’t a spiritual master (he is), but he writes in a colloquial, friendly style, preferring personal anecdotes and homey little parables over explicit callbacks to Scripture and other Christian mystics. That’s not to say his approach isn’t solidly rooted in the Christian tradition; it is, but here his aim is to encourage the reluctant pray-er by stripping away anything that might get in the way and offering lots of encouragement. Kelly’s approach is most similar to my own; we both have a heart for helping people to begin their conversation with God. As he says, “Once the conversation has begun, it can lead anywhere.”


Who am I?

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up writing so many books about spirituality and religion. I started out in journalism, after all, driven by an endless curiosity about people and the planet. I wanted to tell all the untold stories! Funny thing, chasing those stories deeper and deeper eventually led me to write about spirituality, and ultimately, prayer. I picked up an MA in pastoral ministry, spent a few years editing high school religion textbooks for Saint Mary’s Press, and then started writing my own books. Most of what I write is aimed at helping beginners learn to pray, which is why I made this list.


I wrote...

Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

By Jerry Windley-Daoust,

Book cover of Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

What is my book about?

What would it be like to walk with Jesus along the roads and seashores of ancient Palestine…to eat with him, to hear his words, to witness his miracles? For centuries, Christians have “walked with Jesus” through the practice of imaginative prayer. Imagine You Walked with Jesus is your guide to this ancient method of prayer, taking you on a journey through forty Gospel-based encounters with Jesus, from his birth to his resurrection. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you'll immerse yourself in each scene, interacting with Jesus just as his contemporaries did two thousand years ago. And like those men and women of ancient Palestine, you might find these intimate encounters with Jesus leave you forever changed, in ways both healing and hopeful.

How to Pray

By Pete Greig,

Book cover of How to Pray

With Pete Greig’s How to Pray, the subtitle says it all: A Simple Guide for Normal People. Greig is a worldwide authority on prayer, but as a self-described “scruffy Brit,” he writes in a way that makes prayer both appealing and accessible. With disarming humor and candor, Greig addresses questions we’ve all asked, from why God heals some people but not others (Greig’s wife, for example, suffers severe epilepsy) to whether or not it’s okay to pray for a parking space. (Spoiler alert:  Greig says yes to parking place prayers, since doing so equips us to live life with greater gratitude. Love that.) I have more than two dozen well-loved books about prayer on my shelf, but How to Pray might be my favorite. It is, to borrow a word from the Brits, “brilliant.”


Who am I?

I’m often introduced as a “prayer expert” but I’m not. I’m just someone who’s found herself praying a lot—for my family, my friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. And while there are all sorts of ways we can pray, I like praying the Scriptures—taking the actual words of the Bible and using them to shape our perspective as well as our prayers. Not only has that approach made my conversations with God more diverse and creative, but it has made them more powerful. Plus, praying this way has equipped me to trust God and experience freedom from worry or fear—even when things don’t happen the way, or in the timing, that I want them to.


I wrote...

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

By Jodie Berndt,

Book cover of Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

What is my book about?

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life is the latest release in the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series. With short, easy-to-read chapters, this book invites you to experience a deeper intimacy with God and discover how connection to Christ equips us to live meaningful, satisfying, purposeful lives. The 31-day format includes select Bible readings, questions for reflection, and powerful prayers you can use to talk to God about every area of your life—from relationships to faith to finding freedom from worry and fear.

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