Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pray the Bible - Book Review

How many books about prayer do you have on your shelf? Off the top of my head, I think I own five. Has that made prayer easier? Not really. While I have learned a lot about prayer through these books, reading books about prayer doesn't always make prayer easier. Sometimes, I feel like I'm just saying the same things over and over again, praying about the same things. This is the problem that Don Whitney addresses in his book Praying the Bible. This book is more about doing the praying, not just reading about it.

Everyone struggles with prayer at some time. It can leave us feeling like we're not very good Christians. Who wants to admit that they don't feel like praying, or that they feel bored by prayer? Whitney's suggestion is that our problem could be the way we are going about prayer. His solution is to get back to the Bible as we pray.

The approach Whitney suggests is to open up the Bible and let it guide our prayer. He suggests beginning with the Psalms. These words cover a huge range of emotion and circumstances to guide our praying. He says that we were given the Psalms "... so that we would give the Psalms back to God." For those who sing the Psalms in worship, this is already a familiar idea.

Whitney gives an example of how one might prayer Psalm 23, and later in the book, he describes how to utilize the method using narrative passages and letters. To facilitate praying the Psalms, he provides a helpful chart in the appendix, where the Psalms up to cover over a period of thirty days. As we scan the "Psalms of the Day," we can choose from the list for what suits our prayer needs at the moment.

Using Scripture gives prayer a focus apart from our regular list. Prayer lists are not a bad thing, and I don't think Whitney would suggest we abandon prayer lists, but praying the Bible adds another dimension to our prayers, and in moments when we feel like we don't want to pray, we have a place to begin. We will also find ourselves praying about things we may have neglected before.

One of the many benefits of this approach is that it fosters meditation on Scripture. While this is not meant to be a hermeneutics exercise, it does mean we must think about what we're reading, and allow it to direct our prayers. As we read, things will come to our mind that may not have come to our minds at other times. For example, if we are praying Psalm 34:19, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all," we may think of those we know who are in the midst of affliction as well as praising God for the reality that he delivers from our own afflictions. Anything to get us to slow down and think about Scripture is a good thing.

The book is short, and could be easily read in an evening. Its very specific focus means a reader can put it into practice right away. Another benefit I can see is that using the Scripture, particularly the Psalms, means we will praise more as we pray. Sometimes, our prayer can feel like a big wish list. It should include worship and praise. Praying the words of the Bible seems a good way to begin.

If you're interested in this book, and you'd like to see other reviews, this one by Dave Jenkins is good, as is the one by Tim Challies.

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