Book Review: Praying the Bible

“ Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more?” asks Whitney, “ I maintain that people – truly born-again, genuinely Christian people – often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.” [1]

img_0085In Donald S. Whitney’s, Praying the Bible, we gain clear insight into the reasoning behind most Christian’s unsatisfactory life of communion with God – they pray the same old things about the same old things. This characteristic of believer’s prayer lives is not uncommon. In fact, I would conclude that most, if not all, Christians at some point in their life will experience these types of feelings about their prayer life.

So how do we combat these feelings and engage ourselves more effectively in our communication with God through prayer? Whitney gives us the framework throughout his short book for an enhanced prayer life.

Review

Chapter one begins by addressing the problem of why so many believers feel their prayers never get higher than the ceiling. Whitney conveys that the most common reason for a bland, repetitious prayer life is not lack of “wanting to pray” or lack of commitment, but rather a problem with the methods in which we use to pray. When we consistently pray the same old things about the same old things, our prayer life becomes boring.

“And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel like praying.” [2]

Chapter 2 provides for us the solution to combat our “boring” prayer lives on the front-line. Whitney emphasizes that God has made praying so simple anyone can do it. Whatever socio-economic class you are in, however high or low your IQ, anyone aspiring to enhance their prayer life can do so by this method. The method given is simply this:

“When you pray, pray through a passage of Scripture, particularly a Psalm.” [3]

The method is this simple: praying the Scripture.

Chapters 3 and 4 present to us the actual method in which to begin praying the Bible regularly. To pray through a passage of Scripture, all you do is simply go through a text line by line and stop to pray after each verse. Whitney exclaims that most people’s mistakes regard the order of operations, if you will, of Bible study. They devote most of their time to Bible intake rather than prayer. Whitney suggests the opposite. Instead of devoting the majority of your time to Bible study or “interpreting the Bible,” spend the majority of your time praying through the passage. This method results in the following: 1) praying less about me and more toward God, 2) praying more in tune with the will of God, and 3) the Holy Spirit will give you the meaning of the text as your pray through it.

Chapters 5 and 6 introduce more instruction as to praying through different genres of Scripture. Whitney offers great help when praying through the Psalms. He states,

“As you pray a psalm think about the pathway from the psalm to you through the mediation of Christ.”[4]

However, when praying through other genres of the Scripture, it may be a little more difficult to find things to pray for or about. For New Testament letters, it is not necessary, according to Whitney, to pray through every verse as we do the Psalms, for some verses are more difficult to pray through than others. Nevertheless, if this happens there is always something or someone who comes to mind. When they come to our minds, we should acknowledge them before God.

For narratives, Whitney suggests backing up and getting the big picture. Instead of focusing on praying verse by verse or the meaning of a specific text, when praying narratives we should pray with the overwhelming theme of the passage. Instead of praying through the details, we pray from the overhead view.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 give us the most help and insight for the book. Whitney exclaims,

“But this book wont help you unless you apply its teaching to your prayer life.” [5]

So Whitney asks his readers to stop what they are doing, and pray through the Psalm of the Day. When reading this, my psalm of the day that I chose was Psalm 52.

How do you know the psalm for the day? Simple.

  1. Choose the first psalm by the date of the day (I’m writing this post on the 22 so we will say 22). Psalm 22.
  2. Now add 30 four times. 52; 82. 112, 142.
  3. These will now be your psalm for the day in which you will choose one.

Therefore, the psalm I chose was Psalm 52.

But Whitney has a point. What good would it do for someone to buy this book and not put it into practice? Absolutely none. Therefore, chapter 8 asks the reader to evaluate the experience then Whitney gives students initial responses throughout the chapter. Chapter 9 is a simple regurgitation of what we’ve learned throughout the book.

Chapter 10 includes one more point of instruction from Whitney about praying the Bible in which he gives three illustrations: George Mueller, the early church, and Jesus on the Cross.

George Mueller is most widely known for the orphanages in which he started in the nineteenth century. However, Mueller started to experience a lull in his prayer life at one point in time. When this lull came to fruition, Mueller acknowledged that his methods of communion with God were misplaced. Mueller would wake up and immediately start his prayers, while he was still tired. This led to Mueller finding himself praying much longer than he should, for he was not awake and alert when praying. But once he realized that he should read and meditate first, his prayer life saw dramatic changes.

The early church, in Acts 4:23,

“After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them.”

Many scholars believe that the words in verse 24 are taken from Psalm 146:6.

Jesus on the cross. On the cross, it was common for most, if not all, criminals being crucified to die from asphyxiation. Because they were hanging from nails in their wrists and ankles, their shoulders would normally pop out of the socket and they would have to push from the ankles to take in air in their lungs. While Jesus was on the cross, he spoke in short phrases because of the lack of air in his lungs to speak. However, all of these short phrases are quoted from Psalm 22.

Conclusion

This short book was life-changing for me as I worked through it. In fact, I would recommend this book to any believer at any stage of spirituality. Whitney gives practical, well-thought methods on how to implement praying through a passage of Scripture during your daily Bible study. Not only will it enhance your prayer life, it will also help your study, and even help you to memorize Scripture in a more effective way.


Footnotes

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Praying the Bible (Wheaton, USA.: Crossway, 2015), 11.

[2] Ibid, 20.

[3] Ibid, 27.

[4] Ibid, 52.

[5] Ibid, 64.

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