A few years ago I read A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy for the first time, and it blew me away. It is the most powerful book I have ever read, hands down. So when I saw that professor Lyle Dorsett had written a biography on Tozer, it instantly became a must read for me.
Going into this book I knew virtually nothing about Tozer outside of knowing he was a highly regarded preacher and his books: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy are considered classics. So for me, reading this book was exciting from the start as I knew almost nothing of Tozer’s story.
Dorsett does an outstanding job of detailing Tozer’s roots and unpacking the childhood that would greatly influence his life and ministry. We get an intimate look at Tozer’s marriage and his relationships with his children. And of course there is much about Tozer’s growth as a pastor/preacher and the ministry path he took until his death.
We tend to put people on pedestals, especially people like Tozer. A man who passionately wanted to know Jesus in His fullness. A man who spent hours upon hours in prayer crying out to God. A man who preached with incredible conviction and empowerment. Thankfully though, Dorsett doesn’t make Tozer out to be a mythical saint. Throughout the book we learn quite a bit about Tozer’s personal flaws and struggles. A lonely man. A man who struggled with bouts of depression. A man who had virtually no relationship with his wife and children.
If you’ve put Tozer on a pedestal, this book might be deflating for you. For me I found it refreshingly honest and in parts quite sad, but at the same time very hopeful, convicting, and encouraging.
One highlight in the book for me, was a prayer Tozer wrote out shortly after being ordained. Here is a section of that prayer that is absolutely brilliant and timeless:
“Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager-but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity” (p. 66).
I also loved reading about how he developed as a preacher. As a preacher myself, there was just a goldmine of wisdom in learning how Tozer learned to preach and preach effectively.
If you’re a fan of Tozer, or are just looking to read a great biography, I would highly recommend reading A Passion for God by Lyle Dorsett.