Monday, March 27, 2017

Talking with God, by Adam Weber

Adam Weber is pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in America, Embrace Church in, of all places, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  His new book Talking With God: What to Say When You Don't Know How to Pray is for everyone who doesn't "have prayer figured out . . . who is curious about prayer . . . who wants to talk with God."  When Weber asked his friend, retired pastor Roger Fredrikson, how he would describe prayer, Fredrikson replied, "Talking with God."  And that, my friends, is all there is to it.

Weber wants Christians to understand that, in spite of what you might hear during Sunday morning prayers, one need not learn a new vocabulary in order to pray.  Perhaps little kids are the best example: "When it comes to talking with God, what can we learn from kids? Pretty much everything. Keep it short, simple, and honest." (53)

Sometimes we feel inadequate, unprepared or unworthy to talk to God.  Weber writes, "Instead of being discouraged or feeling disqualified, start talking with God today. . . . He's not looking to scold you.  He's just so glad to talk with you.  He delights in you.  Whenever you start talking with God, he's glad to be with you, as any good father would be." (65)

Weber spends a good chunk of the book helping us to know "How to pray when. . . ."  With entertaining examples from his own life and church family, and with actual, simple model prayers, Weber writes about praying when:

  • You face storms.
  • You're discouraged.
  • You're stuck in the mud.
  • You're exhausted.
  • You need an anchor.
  • You want to be used by God.
  • You're trying to extend grace.
This last chapter on extending grace was particularly moving to me.  "Extending God's grace to someone when we've been hurt at the core is impossible on our own. . . . It's only possible as a result of praying. . . . Prayer empowers us to extend grace to the person who has hurt us more than anyone else on the planet."  Anyone who has been hurt and tried to forgive and be reconciled on his own will attest to the difficulty of this.  "When I read Paul's description of grace and his challenge to 'distribute' God's grace, all I can think of is an overwhelming amount of grace. . . . I picture us handing out mass quantities of grace to everyone.  I picture crates and crates stacked with bottles and bottles of grace, God's grace. . . . there's an endless supply. . . . We get to generously hand it out" to spouse, family, coworkers, strangers, enemies, through our words, actions, time and money, and forgiveness.  "Grace is an undeserved gift.  We have received it.  Now it's ours to give."  That is such a powerful image to me.  I want to prayerfully pack my backpack every morning with these bottles of excess grace and seek opportunities to empty them every day, keeping in mind that there's more where that supply came from.  But I can't do it on my own; I have to let God fill up my supplies.

For some readers, Talking With God will probably be annoying.  The prose is so conversational and informal that it was, at times, almost insulting.  I know, that sounds snobbish.  I'm just being real.  Plus, his end notes (he calls them "field notes") were a mix of scripture references and other secondary sources, as you would expect, along with autobiographical side bars, shout outs to his friends and favorite haunts, and other assorted silliness.  The notes are sort of fun, but sort of distracting.

Like any book on prayer, Talking With God is worthless unless it's put into practice.  To learn and grow in prayer, we have to pray.  Weber observed the fruit of his friend Roger's life.  "Perhaps this is why Roger's faith was so deep.  He learned about God from God.  Through years of conversations. . . .  The best way to know God is to spend time with him." (179)  Give Talking With God a bit of your time, and you have some framework and models to get you started.  Weber's model prayers probably aren't any that you'll want to pray verbatim, but they give a good idea of the conversational, personal prayer that should be a part of our walk with God.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for the complimentary review copy!

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