Monday, August 3, 2015

Praying the Bible, by Donald Whitney

Donald Whitney, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, must have heard more than his share of watered-down, repetitive prayers.  More than that, he has heard many Christians--pastors, seminarians, and laypeople alike--complain that they don't know what to pray, they get bored, they run out of things to pray about after a few minutes, or they just "say the same old things about the same old things."

Whitney expounds on his teaching about prayer in his short but powerful book, Praying the Bible.  The premise is simple: "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."  He recommends using the Psalms regularly, but states that any scripture can be a "diving board" for prayer.  To clarify, "this isn't reading something into the text; it's merely using the language of the text to speak to God about what has come into your mind."

I love the heart of Praying the Bible, encouraging both the use of scripture and the use of God's language in our prayers, giving God's words back to him.  Whitney makes a clear distinction between studying scripture and praying scripture.  The two can blend, of course, but they are different.  Praying the scriptures may have its limits, as there may be specific things to pray for that aren't naturally drawn in a scripture prayer time.  I think of prayers for healing, corporate prayers for an event, petitions for something very specific.  He does address these kinds of prayers.  By using scripture, he says, "Instead of the generic 'Please bless this' and 'Be with them' prayers, people pray things the Bible commands about particular people and situations."

Praying the Bible is best suited for personal, devotional prayer.  He describes using it in small group prayer, but I think that would be more limited.  Most of all, his suggestions can be a great model for reviving a flagging prayer life.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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