Have you ever struggled with prayer? I’ve never met a Christians who could answer that question by saying ‘No.’ At some point, every believers probably struggles with prayer, and often we think it’s us. Somehow we’ve drifted from God, we’re not spiritual enough, or our attention spans won’t allow for enough focus. But maybe the problem is our method for prayer. This is Donald Whitney’s thesis in his new book, Praying the Bible. Whitney is known for his work on the spiritual disciplines, and the two most important come together in this book.
In the first part of the book, Whitney tries to make the case for using the Bible as the basis for our prayer lives, especially the Psalms. He reminds the reader that we often rightly pray about the same things. The problem comes when we pray about them in the same ways. We lack spiritual imagination and insight which leaves our prayers stale and lifeless. The solution is found in the Bible itself where God can direct our prayers.
The Psalms are especially helpful because most of them were themselves originally written as prayers. They were meant to be sung and prayed by God’s people. In this way, they are examples to us on how to respond to God from every kind of emotional perspective. Moreover, they cover a wide array of theological topics. In the Psalms, you have divine instructions on how to pray through all circumstances.
In the second half of the book, Whitney moves into a series of “how to” chapters, giving practical advice on how to actually pray the Bible. He begins with the Psalms, utilizing a schedule that brings five psalms into your field of vision each day, covering the entire Psalter in a month. He goes on to walk the reader through praying over the New Testament letters as well as narrative portions of Scripture. Though focused on the Psalms, Whitney wants us to be able to pray through all of the Bible. The best part of these sections is that he doesn’t simply give you theory or directions. He actually walks you through praying over parts of Scripture, giving you the biblical text and what he might actually pray.
In some ways, what Whitney presents here is nothing new. If you’re at all familiar with Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer, D. A. Carson’s Praying with Paul, or T.M. Moore’s God’s Prayer Program (and not a few posts on this site!), then you will be familiar with Whitney’s thesis of praying Scripture. But that doesn’t mean that his book is a waste of time. In fact, the strength of Whitney’s book is its concise nature. This is a book you could give to a new Christian or an older one who struggles with prayer. He didn’t say all that is to be said on the subject and one can easily go deeper. Nevertheless, Whitney provides an excellent foundation for those looking for a more biblical, effective way of calling out to our heavenly Father in prayer.
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.