Sarkissian, Mike J. Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer. Xulon Press, 2009. 260 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon for $12.74 or less.
Mike Sarkissian is a pastor at Sovereign Grace Community Church in Perris, California. While most (if not all) of the readers here at Christian Book Notes have never heard of Mike Sarkissian (I had not), they should more and more. As a book reviewer, I am always skeptical of books being published through Xulon Press—anyone can now be published and that is not always a good thing.
When the book came across my desk, I noted the names beneath the “blurbs” on the back of the cover. Names like Ken Jones, White Horse Inn, Dr. Conelius Plantinga, President, Calvin Theological Seminary, Dr. Joel Beeke, President Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, and on down the list. These three men alone carry much weight in my mind when it comes to a recommendation; therefore, I was intrigued by the book and looked forward to reading it. I was not disappointed.
Divided into three parts, Mike expertly moves from defining what prayer actually is to what the components of a biblical prayer look like. His final section offers additional thoughts on the subject of prayer.
The book is marked by countless references to the Bible. His main thrust to beginning to understand what it means to commune with God is deeply rooted in his unwavering resolve that the Bible is the ultimate source of our knowledge of the holy. Therein lies the main component of his argument that we ought to measure truth by the standard of the Bible and that we should model our prayer life after that of Jesus Christ who being God found it necessary to daily spend time alone with the Father.
For the components of prayer, Mike looks at the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13) and exegetically determines how we should pray based off this model prayer. It is one thing to repeat the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), but it is something entirely different to look at it as a model and to think deeply on the manner in which it shows us we are to pray.
The final section simply looks at the importance and the manner of prayer. His chapter of issues in prayer is most excellent. After reading the first 15 chapters, this 16th chapter will prove to be arguably the most valuable chapter of them all. That being said, the final chapter on Robert Murray McCheyne is worth the cost of the book by itself.
Excellent! Mike’s detail on one of the most important though disregarded disciplines in the church today is much needed. His first section helps to deliver the discipline and privilege of prayer from out modern-day malaise and bring it back to the vibrant and necessary part of the Christian life (in and out of the church) that it should be.
While he may go a bit too deep in some areas for the general Christian, (see his chapter on the hermeneutics—Hermen-who?—of prayer) he has nonetheless authored an exceptional book and one that would make an excellent resource for the church today.
If you are studying the discipline of prayer, you would do well to begin here with Before God. I think the crime of this book is that it is published through Xulon and not a major publisher.
For those struggling with prayer (and who does not), Mike Sarkissian has written a wonderful exhortation to the Christian to continue to pray. Not only that, he helps us to see the how’s and why’s of our prayers. Pick up a copy and spread the word about this wonderful resource.