Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Review: Praying the Bible

Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Crossway publishes the best, best books. In my opinion. Last week, I reviewed the amazing Newton on the Christian Life, and, this week I'm reviewing Donald S. Whitney's Praying the Bible. Both books are excellent. But in very different ways I suppose. There is something so very practical and just NECESSARY about Praying the Bible. (Not that Newton on the Christian Life wasn't practical. But it was more food for thought, ideas to let resonate.)

Praying the Bible is simple, straight-forward, and PRACTICAL. Have a troubling prayer life? Is your prayer life boring, routine, nothing-special? Is prayer a matter-of-fact duty to check off your to-do list? Do you hate to pray but hate to admit that you hate to pray? Are you embarrassed at your passion-less prayer? Do your prayers feel scripted or manufactured? What if you can't remember the last time you finished a prayer? What if--your prayer life is even non-existent?  This book is for you. I promise. It is. I know it's hard to believe that there really is a book about prayer that could actually help you PRAY. Sometimes you can know you have a problem, but, be hesitant to do something about it. What if you read a hundred books on prayer, and, still can't pray? Wouldn't that prove the problem is you? But give this one a try. It is a bit different than other books on prayers.
It’s possible that you have been saying the same old things about the same old things in prayer for so long that it’s hard for you to believe that you could easily learn to pray any other way, as though you were listening to a lung specialist say that you could easily change the way you breathe. Many who are reading this book have endured the guilt of an incurably wandering mind and feelings of boredom in prayer for decades, and here comes a writer asking you to believe that there is a simple, permanent, biblical solution to a problem that’s plagued you for most of your life. Would I really ask you to believe that? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I do realize that after all these years of unsatisfying prayer, you might find it challenging to believe that the problem is not you, Christian, but your method. But once again, let’s return to the facts. The Lord has his people all over the world, and among them are believers of every sort of demographic description. And yet by his Spirit, he gives to all of them a desire to pray. Would he do this for all if meaningful prayer was doable only by some? Would your heavenly Father make prayer so difficult or confusing that you could never enjoy it or, rather, never enjoy him through prayer?
In the book, Whitney describes the problem most people have with praying. And it does indeed sound oh-so-familiar. He then proposes a solution that is simple and wise. And all you need is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Oh, I suppose you also need time--a little or a lot.

His solution is to pray the Bible: to sit down with an open Bible, to read through a passage of Scripture, and verse by verse, pray as the Spirit leads you. Let the Bible itself--the words of the Bible--drive your prayers forward. Not every single phrase in every single verse will speak to you directly and lead to praise or a prayer request. But if something--or someone--comes to mind as you're reading, PRAY. As part of the book, he requires you to actually pray for seven minutes using his method before continuing on with the book. I only hope every reader does it!!!
To pray the Bible, you simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text. See how easy that is? Anyone can do that. If you don’t understand the meaning of a verse, go on to the next verse. If the meaning of that one is perfectly clear but nothing comes to mind to pray about, go on to the next verse. Just speak to the Lord about everything that occurs to you as you slowly read his Word. You do this even if— and this page of the book is potentially the one most likely to be misunderstood— even if what comes to mind has nothing to do with the text.
God has revealed himself to us through his Word. And praying this way, does indeed come closer to having a conversation. As opposed to say, the feeling that you're ordering off a menu. More specifically, he urges--encourages--believers to pray using Psalms. Though it's possible to use this method with other Scriptures. (Particularly the New Testament.)

So. His examples primarily comes from the Psalms. And he encourages a systematic way of praying through the Psalms. Take the day of the month--say the 10th--and keep adding thirty. So on the 10th of the month, you'd skim through Psalm 10, Psalm 40, Psalm 70, Psalm 100, Psalm 130. You'd then after skimming, choose ONE to pray through that day. On the 31st of the month--choose a section or two from Psalm 119.

I would definitely recommend this one. This is another Crossway book to gush about!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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