I wish to start by saying that I’ve read a lot of books on prayer. Some have been helpful and some I wish I didn’t even take the time to finish them. For Don Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible, I can faithfully say this is a book that has been incredibly helpful.
The book is short and can be digested within a day if one truly wanted to – yet I would recommend slowing down and taking stock in what is written. It is an incredibly accessible book, organized well, and clearly articulated. Better yet, he advocates a simple methodology to enhance and revitalize your prayer life.
If you are anything like me, prayer can be a difficult thing to be enthralled with some days. We have hordes of literature giving ten easy steps to a better prayer life that impose upon the reader that if they neglect step 7, their prayer life will go unfulfilled. Beyond this, the repetitious task of completing such steps often removes the joy of prayer and places upon one’s self the yoke of burdensome prayer. Prayer should never be a burden.
Instead of tasking the reader with multiple steps to a better prayer life, Whitney simply advocates a simple approach: you pray using scripture as your source, namely, the Psalms. The reason being: we can avoid vain repetition in our prayers, use inspired text that covers a wide range of emotions, doctrines, and troubles, and initiate the conversation of prayer with God freely. It focuses our minds to keep us from wandering during prayer and is incredibly easy to implement. All one must do is open up the Psalms, pick a passage, and pray through it.
The task is not one in which we must pray every single line found within that Psalm; it is content driven, utilizing the text as a means to follow the paradigm of praise given in the Psalter. Thus, one can praise God’s character, give thanksgiving, express lament, petition Him to act, and close again in praise and thanksgiving.
In this, Whitney advocates that we allow our minds to bring certain things to light as we pray through the Psalm. Thus, an easy example from Psalm 23:1 would be as follows:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I praise You in Your provisions and leadership in all aspects of my life. You bring forth food for even the birds of the air – let me not be concerned with provision as the Gentiles are, but instead trust that You will be faithful in all things and uphold your beloved children. I thank you, as my shepherd, that You guide me. May You continue to guide me in righteousness, that I may display the richness of Your grace to all who see me. May You guide my children upon this path that they might fear you and come to see wisdom in Your Law – for it is good, and holy, and righteous. May You provide for them the way of salvation. Open their eyes to see and ears to hear of Your great mercy, so that they too shall see what it means to not be in want.
One verse can prompt content-rich, biblical prayer. Imagine what you can do with the rest of a Psalm that has been repeated throughout the church so much that most can recite it without hesitation – yet don’t meditate on what it means. In this, you not only meditate on what the passage is saying, but you take directly inspired words of God back to Him in prayer. You are speaking to the Lord using His language. In more simple words: you are seeing the Lord initiate the conversation through the scriptures, and you are simply responding to them.
I can promise you that if you struggle with prayer – and you read and faithfully implement the practice he lays out, you will have an enriched prayer life. It is so simple, yet so effective. Buy the book, read it, and put it into practice. Use what time you have, whether it be a few minutes or an hour (which before I felt was daunting, but if you have the time and want to continue – simply turn to the next Psalm. If you don’t know how to pray from that Psalm, turn to the next).
It really is that simple.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page book reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.