Book Review: Kneeling with Giants

Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers by Gary Neal Hansen. InterVarsity Press, 2012.

As a young Christian, I thought there was one way to pray. I learned the ACTS acronym (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and thought this was THE way. Only later did I discover that even within scripture, people prayed in widely different ways.

In Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, Gary Neal Hansen[1] chooses ten saints and their recommended ways of praying to expose us to the breadth of ways God’s people have prayed. We have Benedictine liturgy, Luther’s teaching on praying the Lord’s prayer, the anonymous pilgrim’s Jesus prayer, Calvin’s use of the Psalms, the Ignatian prayer of the senses and more! I was most surprised with his inclusion of Agnes Sanford’s model of healing prayer, which he admits can be controversial. In each of the chapters, and in an appendix at the conclusion, he gives practical instruction for each prayer model with the encouragement to practice these for a period, recognizing that some will be helpful, and some may not connect. Yet he thinks all are helpful to some and some that may not be our “prayer language” now may serve us at a later time.

The e-book version (which I did not read) comes with a supplement of readings for each of the “giants”.

Editor’s question for the reader: With tomorrow being Ash Wednesday and beginning this year’s practice of Lent, are there unique practices of prayer which guide you through Lent as part of the people of God? OR do you find as a friend expressed to me the other day, “Lenten practice and prayer woven throughout the year”?


  1. Gary Neal Hansen (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is associate professor of church history and the chair of the history and theology division at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He has written numerous articles and papers for academic journals and conferences. Hansen and his wife live in Iowa with their young son. — Biography from the InterVarsity Press author page ↩
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Bob Trube

Bob Trube is Associate Director of Faculty Ministry/Emerging Scholars Network, and Senior Area Director for InterVarsity's Graduate & Faculty Ministry team in the Ohio Valley (Ohio, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania). He resides in Columbus, Ohio, with Marilyn and enjoys reading, gardening, choral singing, and plein air painting.

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One Comment

    Gary Neal Hansen commented on March 5, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Bob, for reviewing my book on your blog!

    I’m thrilled to have the book in the hands of people on IVCF staff. I hope it reaches IVCF students as well. One prayer I brought to the process when IVP signed the book was that it would help equip a generation of disciples with tools and habits to draw close to God — closer than they dare imagine, close enough to make their lives more like Jesus, and close enough to be strengthened to participate in God’s work in the world.

    I hope you don’t mind if I listen in on the conversation here. You are always welcome over at my blog as well GaryNealHansen dot com.

    (In answer to your question, I’m trying to engage in a more serious lectio divine than I usually do this Lent.)



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