Wesley and Stacey Campbell have written Praying the Bible as a modern twist on a traditional prayer book, which is a concept that I found very intriguing. However, the deeper I got into this book, the more I struggled with it.
In the introduction, many of the great men of the Bible are discussed and how they were diligent in prayer. The authors say, “It is a serious error to gloss over the prayer lives of the patriarchs of our faith, thinking we can imitate their works apart from imitating their prayer lives.” I absolutely agree and I think that this is something that people tend to overlook. We want the signs and miracles, yet are we doing the behind-the-scenes work, so to speak? This is an excellent point.
The reader learns about Jewish prayer traditions including the frequency of prayer times and what was passed on through oral tradition. I enjoyed this information and the verses that were used to illustrate it.
When discussing specifically praying out loud, the author states, “It is hard to think about something other than what you are talking about. Praying out loud solves the problem of the wandering mind.” Here is a place where I am going to have to disagree. If one is focused on the task at hand and is quieting their spirit and soaking in the presence of the Father, whether they are praying out loud or praying silently should make no difference. If you are having to speak out loud to remain focused, then perhaps your spirit is not quieted enough and submission to the Lord is needed, or surrender to God of whatever agitation is occurring should happen first. Then when the distractions are removed, you can move forward in prayer.
Section one of the book discusses theophanies. The authors discuss how when going to places to speak they find that many believers cannot name a certain number of God encounters, or theophanies, from the Bible. They say, “How absurd is it, then, for devoted believers who have given their whole lives to love and serve God, who say they believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of these accounts, to not even know where God sightings are found, much less be able to recite them in their minds and spirits?” I am going to be completely transparent here. If someone came to my church, stood me up in front of a group of people, and then asked me to recite four theophanies I would fail for a couple of reasons. Number one, most people do not do well when put on the spot, even on concepts they are deeply familiar with. Number two, I was not familiar with the term theophany prior to this book. So if asked for a theophany, I would not have known how to answer. If asked for a God encounter, I would have known. Now, does that make me any less devoted to God? Am I only “saying” I believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the accounts recorded in the Bible if I can’t recite each God encounter one by one? Of course not.
There is a very interesting examination of Daniel and the Son of Man. I believe that the Daniel 7 is crucial to understanding Jesus’ claim to deity. For those who engage in apologetics and encounter the argument that Jesus never claimed to be God, I would encourage you to dig into Daniel 7.
The authors gave advice in this section that I found troubling: “My advice to everyone is always the same: Both you and your children should begin to pray Revelation 4 at least 100 times out loud to God: 10 times a day, for 10 days straight. Then you will see God!” God doesn’t wait to reveal Himself to us based on the number of times we do a certain task. My children do not have to pray anything “at least 100 times out loud” to “see God”. The Bible says in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Multiple times in the Bible we are told that if you seek the Lord with all your heart and all your soul, you will find Him. God does not have a series of boxes we have to check off before He will reveal Himself to us. It is possible that the authors meant “see God” as in see His attribute or His nature, but that was not clear.
Other sections of the book include the Psalms, prayers of wisdom, the Song of Songs, prayers of the prophets, apostolic prayers, hymns of the revelation.
I did enjoy the section about the allegorical prayer method of the Song of Songs. I was unfamiliar with that and it was very interesting.
In closing, I want to address certain overall viewpoints of this book. For example, “Does it say something about our feelings toward God when we will not lift up our voice on earth? Simply put, our own inability to pray “out loud and loud” exposes a deficiency of passion, because loudness is part of loving God with all our soul and strength.” The Bible does not say this. In fact, there were many people in the Bible who were passionate in their silent or quiet prayers and God answered them – Hannah, Eliezer, Nehemiah, David, and Jesus are examples. Volume does not equal passion any more than it equals sincerity. If a believer is experiencing a deficiency of passion, it is due to a condition of the heart not the volume of his prayers. The Bible says that when we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. So our silent submission is just as important as our loud hallelujahs.
I found the book to be very legalistic. I struggle with even writing that because I tried to look at it from every angle. Is the point to teach people how to pray to build confidence and a connection with the Lord? I felt like the overall tone of the book was that as believers we must meet a certain mark, that we must do certain tasks to a certain degree otherwise we are not properly showing God love. I find very little grace in that. I find a lot of legalism in it, which is counter-productive to the end goal by leading to more questions than solutions. Am I good enough? Did I pray enough? Did I pray the right prayer? Did I pray loud enough? Did I pray long enough? The reality is that Jesus came and died for us to put an enough to our questions of enough. I encourage you to seek God with your whole heart. I encourage you to get into His Word. But please understand, your Heavenly Father is not sitting in heaven with a chart waiting on you to finish “x” number of tasks before He loves you or before He knows you love Him or before you are good enough. No, my friend. He sent His precious Son to this world because He loves you. He desires a relationship with you. He desires true intimacy with you. When you submit yourself as a willing vessel to Him, He will guide you in the ways of knowledge and He will reveal Himself to you. When you stay plugged into Him and you keep chasing after Him, allow Him to order your steps and He will. Soak in His presence and talk to Him. I intend to learn more about praying the Bible from a grace-filled, biblical perspective, and I encourage you to do the same.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review of it.