Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: Praying Backwards

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life By Beginning IN Jesus' Name. Bryan Chapell. 2005. Baker Publishing. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
How would your prayer change if you began where you normally end? We habitually end our prayers with the phrase “In Jesus’ name, amen.” The amen means “truly” or even “I really mean this.” But what are we actually saying? We are supposed to be saying that everything we prayed for was offered “in Jesus’ name”—for his honor and purposes. When we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we pray for his sake more than our own. We still present our desires and concerns to God, but we do so in the context of yielding our priorities to Christ’s priorities. The final phrase of our prayer reminds us, as well as commits us, to submit all our requests to the glory of Jesus. Yet that’s not always the way we pray. Often we focus on asking God to ease our worries and satisfy our wants before adding “in Jesus’ name” as an obligatory spiritual seasoning to make our petitions palatable to God.
Were we to pray backwards literally, we might be surprised to find how childish many of our prayers are: In Jesus’ name, give me a new car. In Jesus’ name, lower my taxes. In Jesus’ name, make my stock go up in value. In Jesus’ name, help me get out of this marriage. In Jesus’ name, make my church get really big. While there may be God-honoring purposes in some of these prayers, the glory of Jesus’ name is not the primary focus of most of them.
I loved, loved, loved, LOVED Bryan Chapell's Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name. I've loved many, many books this year. It's actually been a great reading year. I would definitely include this one among my favorites-so-far.

So. Another book about prayer?! YES, another book about prayer. A very needed book in my opinion.

Here's the table of contents:

  • Praying in Jesus' Name: In Jesus' Name, Amen Begin
  • Praying in Jesus' Way: Not My Will But Yours
  • Praying Without Doubting: Trusting Our Father, The King
  • Praying in the Spirit: Power Beyond Our Power
  • Praying Boldly: As A Child of God
  • Praying Expectantly: For All Things Always
  • Praying Persistently: Never, Never Give UP
  • Praying in God's Will: Within the Fence of Righteousness
  • Praying in God's Wisdom: Within the Fence of Prudence
  • Praying Forward: Paddle and Pray
  • Conclusion: In Jesus' Name, Amen

Prayer. I think there will always, always be a need for books about prayer. No matter the century, I think believers have always struggled with prayer, with knowing how to pray, with praying consistently, with feeling confident that they're praying rightly, with priorities. Not all books about prayer are of equal worth to believers. I believe that Praying Backwards is a great book about prayer. (I'd also say Andrew Murray's Living a Prayerful Life is a great book about prayer.)

I would say the book is encouraging and relevant and practical. I think the encouragement is crucial. Books about prayer should not be commanding and condemning, or, only commanding and condemning. I think most people--most believers--know that prayer is important and that their own prayer lives could use improvement or attention. But all the "do this, do that, be better, try harder" messages can seem paralyzing and overwhelming. Yes, it is important for books to emphasis that prayer is part of a healthy spiritual life. But it is also important that grace be extended. That is one of the many things Chapell's book does well:
Jesus is so patient. He does not condemn or rebuke the apostles for their repeated questions or elementary understanding. Seeing how Jesus reacts to his disciples is important for my own prayer life. When I am tempted to blame myself for not knowing more than I do about prayer, the patience of the Savior calms my heart and draws me to him. I know from his treatment of the apostles that he wants me close and will listen to me even when I need to ask again and again, “Lord, how should I pray?”
His willingness to teach us again and again to pray tells us how important it is that we come to him again and again.
Too often I am too weak and distracted to pray as I ought. I am like the disciples who fell asleep while Jesus wept (Matt. 26:36–43). My shame can tempt me to give up praying, but the promises of the Spirit strengthen me. My lack of fervor is no reason to rein in my prayers. As I pray so weakly, the Holy Spirit strongly pleads for me with groans deeper than I can express to touch the heart of the Father. And the Father, who sent his Son and his Spirit to be our advocates, loves to listen—and respond.
The Father hears our prayers, not as the petitions of the fault-ridden persons we are but as the pleas of the infinitely holy and eternally loved Son, our Savior. Our union with Christ influences every dimension of the Christian life. When we worship, Christ is not only the audience of our songs, but through his Spirit he is also the singer (Eph. 5:18–20). When his servants preach, he is not only the witness of the sermon but the proclaimer (2 Cor. 4:5–7; 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:1–2). When we serve, he is not only the object of our service but the enabler (Phil. 4:13). When we pray, he is not only the Lord whom we seek but the One who speaks. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray with his identity.
Favorite quotes:
Children pray, “Lord, give me what I want”; the mature pray, “Lord, conform me to what you want.” Children pray for the fulfillment of their desires; the mature pray for the fulfillment of the Savior’s purposes. Children pray for the things they can see; the mature pray that God will be seen. Children pray, “My will be done”; the mature pray, “Thy will be done.”
The Holy Spirit turns our prayers inside out, upside down, and backwards. By his work in us, not only do we seek Jesus’ priorities above our own, but we actually want to seek them. By the Spirit’s supernatural work, our natural desires take a backseat and the desires of our Savior take the driver’s seat. The Spirit overwhelms us with the depth of Christ’s love. Our heart responds with love for him and the desire to serve him, and we most want all that most pleases heaven. Not only does the Spirit use his power to fulfill our prayers in accord with God’s will, but he grants us love for Christ that makes us want what God wills.
We cannot pray according to God’s will and prioritize according to ours.
In biblical prayer, we think God’s thoughts after him. The Holy Spirit who indwells us speaks to the Father through the Son with whom we are united, so that God speaks to himself by the thoughts of the believer. These thoughts are ordered by the Spirit. He impresses on our mind principles of Scripture, whispers of the conscience, and impressions from life’s experience. These all combine to make our thoughts flow in the furrows that God intends. These furrows are not merely godly patterns of thought but also the soil that God uses to nurture and order the accomplishment of his will.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Susanne said...

This sounds like a very good book that lots could be gleaned from!