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Praying the Bible Hardcover – July 31, 2015
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“Don Whitney’s suggestion to pray the Bible has made a huge contribution to my devotional life. This little book is explosive and powerful. Read it ready to experience a great step forward in your walk with Christ and in your commitment to prayer.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“My walk with the Lord has often been strengthened and encouraged by Don Whitney’s writing. Now he reminds us of the value of using Scripture as a prompt and basis for our prayers. This is a particularly helpful tool for those of us who often struggle to know what and how to pray or whose minds tend to wander during private prayer. This book will surely help many refresh their time with the Lord.”
—Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Bible teacher; host, Revive Our Hearts
“If you are looking for a book to teach you not only to pray but also to invigorate your intimacy with God through prayer, this is the one. I highly recommend this book written by a man who has instructed thousands of people about spiritual disciplines in academic circles and in church settings. My soul has been nourished as I have sat under Whitney’s teaching, especially on the topic of prayer. You and I need this book. You will be blessed in more than one way.”
—Miguel Núñez, Senior Pastor, International Baptist Church of Santo Domingo; President and Founder, Wisdom and Integrity Ministries
“I prayed through Psalm 23 with tears streaming down my face, asking myself, why have I not done this before? Perhaps you’ve been told to pray the Scriptures, but you haven’t because you were never taught how to. Whitney’s simple approach makes praying through the Bible accessible while also leaving space for the Word and Spirit to work in your heart. Don’t give up on prayer! Praying the Bible will help transform your prayer life.”
—Trillia Newbell, author, God’s Very Good Idea; Enjoy; and United
“Prayer and Scripture intake are both essential for spiritual devotion, like the left and right wings of a plane. Prayer is the Christian’s duty. It should also be the Christian’s delight. Praying the Bible will teach you to take in the joy of Scripture-led prayer.”
—H. B. Charles Jr., Pastor, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida
“Whitney offers a wonderfully practical, pastoral, and biblical approach to prayer that relieves personal boredom and unleashes spiritual power. It’s so simple it will shock you and, at the same time, invigorate a renewed prayer life with your God.”
—Bryan Chapell, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois
“Whitney has taught the material in this book a number of times at the WorshipGod conferences I lead. Unfailingly his has been one of the most appreciated and life-affecting seminars we’ve offered. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”
—Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship, Sovereign Grace Ministries; elder, Sovereign Grace Church, Louisville; author, Worship Matters and True Worshipers
About the Author
Donald S. Whitney (PhD, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa) is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written several books, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Don blogs regularly at BiblicalSpirituality.org.
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If you struggle with prayer like I do, Dr. Donald Whitney has a possible solution to help your prayer life. His upcoming book, Praying the Bible, describes an incredibly simple yet effective method for focusing our prayer using Scripture. This short and practical book lays out a simple method for praying through Scripture:
1. Select a passage of Scripture (usually a Psalm) and read it.
2. Read the first verse. If a subject for prayer comes to mind, stop and pray. Use the words of the Scripture to help guide your prayer.
3. When you're done with that verse, move on to the next verse.
4. Repeat until you run out of time.
It's really that simple. Dr. Whitney advises that the Psalms are the easiest Scriptures to pray through, and are most easily applicable to this method (though, with some modifications, you can pray through epistles and even some of the narrative portions of Scripture).
Dr. Whitney has been teaching this method of prayer for years as part of his "Personal Spiritual Disciplines" course at Southern Seminary, which is where I first encountered it when I took his course online. This method of praying through a Psalm is simple to do but I have benefited greatly from it. When I actually follow these steps, I don't have any problem finding things to pray for, and tend to have a rich prayer time. It's pathetic how little I actually put this into practice, because it really is beneficial.
Dr. Whitney says of this method:
"I have enough confidence in the Word and the Spirit of God to believe that if people pray in this way, in the long run their prayers will be far more Biblical than if they just make up their own prayers. That's what people usually do: make up their own prayers. What's the result? We tend to say the same old things about the same old things. And without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read Scripture."
I have to agree with this assessment. When I pray through Scripture this way, I find that I am turned outward more, focusing more on the attributes of God and the needs of others than on my own list of petty requests.
I also appreciate that Dr. Whitney avoids the trap of mystical language that is creeping into Evangelical/Baptist thought on prayer. He doesn't attribute this type of praying to an altered state of consciousness in which we are moved to pray in ways we don't intend as we get a "word." He is clear to say that we hear from God through His Word, rather than waiting for some mystical nudge that we attribute to the Spirit.
However, as much as I appreciate the method and approach of this book, I have a few concerns.
First, there are a couple of quotes or stories that could be misinterpreted. For example, Dr. Whitney quotes Joni Eareckson Tada, who says that when we use God's words ("God's dialect"), we are "bringing God's power into our praying." I have no concerns about Tada's doctrinal soundness, and I think I know what she means here--praying God's Word leads us to pray God's Will, and when we pray God's Will, He works to bring it to pass for His great glory. However, in a day when Word-Faith heresy has been running rampant in Christianity, this statement can easily be misinterpreted as using God's words as totems and incantations to get what we want.
The bigger concern I have about this book is more about the intended audience. As I said, I first encountered Dr. Whitney's prayer method through his seminary class, and for seminarians (especially those like me who have a lot of head knowledge but need more passion in prayer sometimes), this method is perfectly appropriate. However, for new believers or those who have been taught/influenced by weak Bible teachers, this could be a bit risky. Why? Because there is a danger of narcissistic eisegesis (or, as Chris Rosebrough calls it, "Narcigesis.") Eisegesis means to read meaning into the text, instead of pulling the intended meaning out of the text (exegesis). Narcissistic eisegesis means to read oneself into the text, usually in the role of the hero of the story. What results is the terrible preaching of many popular megachurch pastors, in which every Bible story becomes an analogy for you and your challenges. You are David facing your personal "giant." You are Daniel, working or going to school in your own "lion's den." You are Joshua, staring down a Jericho of work success or personal fulfillment.
What does this have to do with Dr. Whitney's book? Dr. Whitney says in the description of this prayer method that praying the Bible is different than studying the Bible. While Bible study involves mining the meaning and context of the passage in order to properly interpret the text, praying the Bible is not as focused on right interpretation as much as on using the language of the text for inspiration. To his great credit, he does provide several examples of how to pray through a text using proper interpretive approaches. However, if the reader has been trained to see the Bible in this narcissistic way, then even using Scripture in prayer becomes an exercise in pursuing selfish goals. David's prayers for the protection of Zion and the joy of God's people will become prayers for personal success and advancement. Psalms that point to the coming Messiah-King will be turned into cries for success over one's personal enemies. In short, if the reader doesn't understand what/Whom the Bible is really about, then praying the Bible may not produce the results Dr. Whitney hopes.
Final Analysis: Praying the Bible is really a great little book that can be a very useful tool for Christians who have a good basic understanding of the story of Scripture, and know how to read the text in context. With this knowledge in place, praying the Scriptures becomes a powerful tool in personal holiness. And even new or untrained believers can benefit from this book, as long as there is a more mature believer who can provide some practical guidance on the Scripture interpretation issue.
Please Note: I was provided a complimentary electronic review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. The preceding thoughts are my own.
Yes many may not order it as it sounds so simple, however the tools/techniques that he provides has truly blessed- changed- convicted me.
Especially the pages in the middle of the book that demand, put this book down right now & grab your bible & read psalm _ _?
Then one sentence later, well did you do it yet?
( knowing many probably did not )
But I did and the practical plan of a specific psalm and 5 others in tandem, will speak to your heart & provide intimate moments with the Creator God.
Say good bye to boring , repetitive, mundane prayers.
But by the grace of GOD
Not too bad for a short little book on prayer. I sense God is doing a work in my life, and in the church, reminding us how better to pray. I have a feeling this will be invaluable in my life going forward. I'm a devotee of Donald Whitney and once again, he proves he has the clarity and gifts to write and teach in ways that are practical and rule-changing.
What makes Whitney’s book distinct from other books on prayer is that he prompts readers to use Scripture as the primary framework for expressing in words your prayers to God.
I found this book easy to read and simple to apply. About half way through the book, the author changes emphasis and leads his readers immediately into applying the principles previously taught. Chapter 7 is the turning point where it directs readers to choose to practice what they have learned.
“Having walked the path of this book thus far, now you find yourself at a fork in this trail of words. In one direction the path is called ‘Information’; the other is called ‘Transformation.’ At this juncture you will decide where the pages you’ve turned will change your life or be forgotten, where a transformation in prayer occurs or you add this book to the pile of those you’ve tread but do not remember.
That’s because I’m going to ask you no to put down this book, pick up your Bible, and pray through a psalm. Choose one of the Psalms of the Day [See pages 48-50 in chapter five or pages 91-92 in Appendix I] or just pick a favorite . . .” (Page 63).