Prayer Made Easy

PrayerPrayer is easy. Prayer is valuable. Prayer is difficult. Prayer is unknown. These phrases among many more begin to describe people’s view of prayer. It’s also helpful to know the most diligent prayer warriors struggle with prayer. Even they desire for their prayer life to grow deeper. However, there is an easy and practical technique one can use to pray better.

Don Whitney has recently written a very small and effective book called, Praying the Bible. In this short book, which can be read in less than two hours, he provides a simple framework to pray better. Mostly he suggests Christians should pray the Psalms.

According to Whitney the Psalms provide the best and most consistent place in scripture to teach us to pray. This is because he believes that every theology taught in the Bible can be found somewhere in the Psalms. Now, he doesn’t want you to neglect the rest of scripture. Rather his point is that by regularly praying through the Psalms one’s prayer life will increase as they learn the theology of scripture too.

As a result, Whitney suggests this should be done by scanning the first five Psalms. In doing so a Christian should be able to find a Psalms they identify with and can begin to pray. As one prays they simply read each line of the Psalm they selected and pray it to the Lord. One may rephrase the line in a way that is more personal and prayerful for them. Also, each line may remind one of other things from their life to pray over. Then once all the reminders have been prayed over the Christian should move on to the next line in the Psalm until finished. Admittedly some lines may not inspire very much prayer. This is acceptable because within each Psalm there are plenty of prompts to increase the ease, interest, and value of one’s prayer life, which is the goal. A goal that can be repeated each day as one returns to pray the next five Psalms.

WhitneyPersonally, I have enjoyed this technique for about two-weeks now. Often I would pray other parts of scripture the same way, but it never occurred to me to make the Psalms my regular practice. In doing so I’ve found that not only has my prayer life increased, I’m personally changing, and my appreciation for biblical poetry is growing. One could argue this technique is already answering prayer due to the ways this new prayer approach is affecting other parts of my life.

In closing, I share this with you not because Dr. Whitney has paid me to or because I received a free copy of the book. I share this with you because this prayer technique is powerful and practical. I’ve already seen it in my life and I believe you can too. I know many people who want to “know how to pray” better. Well, this book is a tool that offers a very simple solution to an old problem. My hope is that you will read it, but my prayer is that your prayer life will grow even more.

 

An Intentional Guide to Reading

BqMxeVhCQAIq7NaReading is my hobby. It’s one I never thought I’d take up. However, due to the volumes I was required to read in seminary the habit turned into a joy. So much of one that now when I come home from conferences it’s not uncommon I return with many free books. In fact, the picture to the left of this paragraph shows the amount of free books I received at one conference alone. Humorously, my wife has requested that I not purchase any more books until I read or discard of some of the ones I currently own. Yet, there still remain some I can’t go without purchasing anyway. In truth, my wife has a point, which is why I developed a plan to be more selectively towards what I read. It’s a plan that I think can benefit anyone at any reading level. So here are my suggestions:

  1. Read the Best

A few years ago my friend and I, Tom Hicks, were discussing how to not read everything, but how to read a lot. In summary his advice was, “Read the best!” This sound advice I’ve found to be true, but the question still remains, “How do we determine the best books?” My answer involves a few tests.

  1. Seek Out Authors Who Are Dead

As morbid as this may sound, hear me out. No matter what genre of books you prefer there is a never endless supply of books one could read. In fact, as I’ve read a vast amount of books over the years there is one thing I’ve found; many of them repeatedly say the same thing. Therefore, a weeding out process I use it to choose authors who are dead. This is because if people today are still talking about their books then the content has stood the test of time. The way they write and the things they say are worthy enough of our attention because something about their writing has reflected quality over time.

  1. Seek Out Books That Are Ten Years Or Older

Local bookstores feature all the best-selling books prominently. Some of these books a year from now will not be best sellers. Some will, but even some of those are still not the best. Literature fads come and go and as they do the wisdom in these books may not apply over time. However, if someone is talking about a book ten years after it was first published there is a strong chance it’s advice will be a valuable investment of our time.

  1. Enjoy Some Recent Authors

So far I have argued that we should focus on older books and authors. While this approach can be helpful, admittedly it can ignore current events. In response to this it’s helpful to have a few favorite authors. Try to limit it to only five or less and include authors from different genres. This way you can stay current with recent topics while enjoying your favorite modern authors too.

  1. Enjoy Some Current Books

CIIhZNiVEAEyT-PLastly, list out some of your favorite topics or genres you like to read. For example, I love books on leadership and on grace. As a result, I will consider buying a more recent book on either topic. For others I know they enjoy certain types fiction and this tip allows them to include those areas too.

Conclusion

Like my posts on journaling, you are free to disagree or adapt my approach to your own needs. Again, I share with you what has found helpful for me. My aim is to enjoy reading than getting bogged down in the piles of books could be read. Rather, I want us all to focus on the best works, both past and present. This way our hobby of reading energizes us than drains us. So please alter these tips anyway needed and let’s learn for life as we read together.

Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp

UnknownDevotionals can be a dime a dozen. The way they are laid out is almost as predictable as a crime show procedural. Readers know there will be an entry for each day and that the entry will not be very long. Usually there is a scripture to accompany the devotional and after each one is read a reader moves onto the next day. As a result, it is tough to add something new to the genre, but Paul Tripp does this with his yearly devotional, “New Morning Mercies.” He does this by simply focusing on the foundational aspect of the Christian life, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is a mystery that Tripp helps the reader unpack each day in this devotional. As one learns from the book, it is uniquely simple, yet completely profound. As a result, Christians can pursue two paths towards the Gospel. First, they can believe they understand all they need to know about the Gospel and never go any deeper. This can stem from teaching that mainly emphasizes the saving element of the Gospel and not much else. However, the grace of the Gospel does much more than that, it sanctifies and grows a person in Christ. This is the second path Christians should take in regard to the Gospel once they are eternally secure by the grace of God. By growing in one’s understanding and application of the Gospel each day transformation occurs that eventually leads one to fall more in love with Jesus. There becomes a deep affection for Christ that encourages one to continue to unpack the mysteries that the Gospel has to offer. In other words, the ability to understand the Gospel is without end and Tripp masterfully writes about it each day in this devotional. Continue reading “Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp”

Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller

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A lot has been written about the book of Romans. Some people interpret it in fragments and fail to see the holistic theme of the book. For example, some people have taken chapters 9 through 11 as written only for Israel, while the rest of the book is meant for non-Israel. Yet neither approach is correct. Rather, as Tim Keller has written Romans 8-16 For You, Romans is about the Gospel. He writes,

“The first seven chapters explain the wonderful truths of the gospel: of justification by faith, of union with Christ, of salvation through Christ alone and not through our works…Then comes the second half of the book. In chapters 8 to 16, Paul is going to continue to answer a question he began to ask in chapters 5 to 7: How does faith in the gospel of Christ actually lead to change in real life?”

Basically, Romans has a unified theme and a simple message, which is, the Gospel for salvation and transformation. From this simple message Paul relates it to very complex issues to show the truth. He practically relates the Gospel for all aspects of life. Each of these issues – adversity, predestination, Israel’s salvation, loving enemies, relationship to government, loving one’s neighbor, stumbling blocks, unity, and women’s roles in the church – Keller directly interprets. Below are some of the issues in more detail.

Love and Gratitude Flow from the Gospel

Keller spends time exegeting chapter eight. He wants to connect to the first seven chapters of Romans to “remember what Christ has done and will do for us…to feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.” By doing so Keller is able to explain the doctrines of divine election much easier. This is because living in gratitude for what God has finished about salvation allows Christians to directly see the importance of biblical predestination. A connection that will be explained further in the next section of this review.

Divine Election and Predestination’s Connection to the Gospel Continue reading “Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller”

Book Review: Am I Called? by Dave Harvey

UnknownSeeking to become a pastor or minister is confusing. Every group has a different way of vetting those who believe they’ve been called to serve others. Different denominations have different requirements and each church offers a variety of methods. Depending on the type of church you belong the process can be easy or difficult. But, what does the Bible say about a ministerial call? Author Dave Harvey offers some principles he bases on scripture in his book Am I Called? to help men of all ages decide if they are called to pastor.

Written from a reformed perspective, Harvey discusses various elements to determine if one is called to pastor. He believes ministry is a calling and not just another career someone pursues. This is important because with the calling comes certain gifts needed to effectively carry out the duties of a pastor. Some of these gifts are an ability to preach, being able to shepherd and love people, loving the lost, having godly character both personally and with one’s family, and more. Each of these are skills are needed for the Gospel ministry, and they serve as a personal affirmation along with the external confirmations others give for one’s call. The uses of these validations are important because one should know God has called for His purposes and not for their own benefit.

Sadly, within some Christian circles and laity, the ministry can become more about the people involved than proclaiming the glory of God. When this happens a minister turns into a career professional, which is opposite from the idea of a sacred servant. As a result, Harvey is wise to use the Bible as the standard to interpret one’s ministerial qualifications. This is because God called ministers should point others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not themselves.

Harvey is right to biblically define pastoral ministry by using the qualifications in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1. In fact, he writes, “Too often, when a man’s character hasn’t stood the test, he remains in ministry by simply rewriting the test.” In other words, there must be an objective standard. If one is called to Christian ministry then it would reason their qualifications would agree with scripture. Therefore, a man’s personal life, his family, how he speaks, and more should be examined because the higher his character is the better one will listen to him about the Gospel. Continue reading “Book Review: Am I Called? by Dave Harvey”

Preaching By Ear by Dave & Karen McClellan

UnknownHave you ever wondered how to preach without notes? Then you should read the book Preaching By Ear that is written by authors Dave and Karen McClellan. This unique book on preaching involves the typical steps of building an outline, utilizing specific illustrations, and relying on one’s notes. But, unlike the typical preaching book, Preaching By Ear encourages a style that emphasizes the “speaking from the heart.” To establish this ideal the authors use historical, biblical, and practical examples.

Written notes for speaking is a recent invention within the history of Christianity and even the world. Citing historical figures such as Augustine, Quintilian, and others, the McClellans show various forms of public speaking and rhetoric principles. Like the biblical examples of Moses, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and even Jesus, a pattern of oral tradition is established. Oral tradition was historically how stories were passed from one generation-to another through simple conversations. This is because there were not sufficient means to document events in written form until Edison was first able to quickly document things with the photograph in 1891. Couple this with the author’s statement that says: “In 90 percent of the history of God’s people, there were no personal Bibles feasibly owned by commoners” makes the case that written form for everyday use is a new idea. Therefore, people must have “spoken from the heart.” Continue reading “Preaching By Ear by Dave & Karen McClellan”

Book Review: What is Biblical Theology? By James Hamilton

UnknownMost people don’t like arguments. This is because some avoid conflict, others don’t want to seem negative, and many more feel when arguments arise that their words are grossly misrepresented. What they have said seems to get twisted by the person they are arguing with than truly representing the meaning they truly intended. This twisting of words and intentions is what author James Hamilton is concerned about in the book What is Biblical Theology? Rather than reading scripture from “the worldview of the biblical authors,” people today read the Bible from the current culture’s point of view. No one would want their words to be misrepresented by anyone, yet this is precisely how some interpret the Bible. As a result, Hamilton has written this concise book in an attempt to instruct principles to get the most from the Bible’s original meaning. This process is called “biblical theology.”

Hamilton defines biblical theology as, “an attempt to get out of this world and into another.” The point is to understand the biblical authors original intent than to interpret the Bible with today’s standards of understanding. Many people may see the conflict in this process as cumbersome. But, by embracing this tension between today’s culture and that of the biblical authors, one finds the true meaning of scripture. Simply, the unified story of the Bible is seen that links each scripture passage together. A story that uses symbols, imagery, types, and patterns to beautifully display God’s plot of “creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.” This theme can be seen from Genesis to Revelation. It shows God, who is the central character over humanity, has provided a means to redeem the world and its people to be included in His grand design. For Hamilton, this redemption is biblical theology, which he attempts to teach in this short book. Continue reading “Book Review: What is Biblical Theology? By James Hamilton”