When I Pray What Does God Do? by David Wilkinson

Sometimes I hate writing reviews, and, honestly, this is one of those times.  When I first was offered this particular title I was very excited, mainly because prayer is something I have often struggled with in terms of being committed to and feeling like I “do” well.  And when I received the book and started reading it I was so ecstatic I shared with several friends, “I’m reading this great book on prayer!”

Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t stay with me.  To put it quite bluntly, I found the book became depressing and downright boring.  In the first chapter I really connected with the author and his struggles with prayer – and he raised many of the questions I have found myself asking over the years.  But then as the book progressed I felt like he never really came to a clear answer, but I just kept reading over and over about his struggles without seeing any victory.  To be fair and transparent, I never finished the book, but by the time I was half-way through it (literally) I found that reading it was sapping my joy and I was more discouraged than I was encouraged, so I had to stop.  Maybe the author finally did reach some resolution (though in my skimming of the last half of the book it didn’t appear he did), but if he did he arrived there way to late to keep my attention (and I typically have a high level of tolerance and patience for wading through books).  In short, reading it because a chore rather than a joy.

So, for that reason (and that reason alone), I’ve got to give the book 1 star and I just do not recommend it.  For the record, I did receive a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.


Bedtime Prayers that End with a Hug

Devotionals for little kids are hard to write – and too often I find them shallow and missing out on the big-picture of what scripture is telling us.  But I have to say I was impressed with the Bedtime Prayers that End with a Hug.  Most appropriate for young children (I’d say 2-4), they are short and to the point, yet they are also very clear and theologically sound.

978-1-4143-8354-5One thing I loved about the book was the simplicity and also directness of the prayers themselves.  These were prayers I can pray with my girls, that they can understand, but also that have deep truth contained in them.  The book makes a great supplement to reading an appropriate children’s bible (personally, I would recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Loyd-Jones) and can begin the life-long process of teaching our kids both the importance of pray and the process of actually praying.

Overall I’ll give this book 4/5 stars.  For the record, I did a receive a complementary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

Pray the Scriptures

Pray the Scriptures is listed as “40 day prayer experience” in which you study passages of scripture (by theme) and practice praying those scriptures.  It includes a daily reading as well as some pointed questions for the reader to meditate on and respond to every day.  At first I was a little nervous about the whole process, but I quickly came to look forward to my daily reading of the book.

One thing I particularly appreciated is that completing the book in order wasn’t necessary – since it is part-workbook and part-devotional, I was allowed to jump around and focus on the theme/topic that to me on that particular day was “where I was at,” so to speak.  Each chapter contains a scripture reference that you will read (typically a longer paragraph or even several paragraphs rather than a short 1-2 verse excerpt), followed by some questions to get your mind thinking and your heart meditating, and each question is actually a prayer “prompt” to get you started.  I found it a great exercise to do, and it brought a freshness to my prayers that had been missing for quite some time as well as taught me a method of praying I had not practiced much leading up to reading this book – but one I have continued after finishing it.

If you’re looking for a book to help renew your passion for prayer and your relationship with the Father, or even if you just want something to give you a new method for praying, I would strongly recommend this book.  Overall, I’ll give it 4/5 stars.

211030_w185For the record, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

My Prayer for Newtown

Father, I’m not even sure what to say.  I know you grieve over what happened yesterday – I know that you are a good God and that you took no pleasure in watching this happen.  I also know that you are sovereign and you are in control – even though the world seems out of control.  I believe you are strong enough to have stopped this from happening, and I don’t know why you didn’t.  But I believe you are big enough to handle that question without being offended.

I also know that I’ll probably never get an answer to that question, at least on this side of heaven.  And, for some strange reason, I’m okay with that.  So I don’t want to talk about the why, I don’t want to try to understand, because, at the end of the day, there are 20 dead kids up there in Connecticut and 6 dead adults just from that school.  That’s a lot of families that are hurting right now because their loved ones didn’t come home last night; those parents weren’t able to snuggle with their sons and daughters and tuck them in last night, they didn’t get to see them take a nap in someone’s arms today, nor did those kids wake up to discover “the elves” had returned.  And those families are hurting.

They need help, Jesus.  They need love, they need peace, they need hope – in short, Lord, they need you.  So I’m praying right now that you would supernaturally rain down on them – do something, Lord, to bring peace to chaos, hope to despair, and love to the hurting.  Father, move your people who live in Newtown to pour out your love to these hurting people.  There are no answers, there are no explanations, there are just hurts – hurts that seem beyond healing.  Hurts that never should have been.

I can’t fix this, Jesus – none of us can.  We can’t bring these kids back from the dead, we can’t undo the madness of yesterday.  In fact, we can’t even do anything to prevent this from happening again.  We’ll try – I’ll try – but at the end of the day it seems that if evil wants to rear it’s ugly head then evil will rear it’s ugly head.  And that, quite honestly Lord, just down-right sucks.  I know in the end you win – I get that; I know and believe with all my heart that one day you will “wipe away every tear” from our eyes, but right now there are hurting people, people who have lots of tears and lots of holes in their hearts, and that promise you gave has yet to be completely fulfilled.

And it’s not just those who lost a loved one, Lord – it’s everyone up there that was affected by this tragedy.  There were over 600 kids at that school – SIX HUNDRED KIDS, Lord!  That’s 600 kids whose lives will forever be changed, six hundred kids whose innocence has been shattered.  Every one of their families will now fear sending their kids to school, wondering, “Will it happen again?”  I’ve read the comments on the blogs, on Facebook, and even on the news stations.  People are scared.

And you know better than I do that when we get scared we do only a couple of things.  One is to react irrationally and do crazy things.  Another is run away from you because, well, we’re mad that this happened and questioned how you could allow it.  The other is run to you and just collapse in your arms.  Father, I pray for each of the families that are affected by this tragedy that they would run to you, Lord.  Let them know that you are crying, too – that you hurt because what happened is bad and evil and it was never in your plan.  Let them know, Lord, that this is not something you did or wanted to happen, that this is an example of something happening on this fallen world that is outside your will.

And, Father, I also pray (and perhaps I’m praying this even more than anything else), that you’d smack your people upside the head so we don’t say or do anything stupid.  I read in horror what people write about you – people who claim to believe, know, and follow you.  The things they say about you and this situation break my heart (and I have to believe they break yours).  They blame you, they say you caused it.  They’re so busy arguing over your involvement (or lack there-of) in this tragedy that they’re forgetting to reach out to those who are hurting.  They’re not listening to the broken-hearted, Lord, too many of your people are preaching at them, complaining about things like video-game violence, R-rated movies, ease of obtaining a gun, and the like.  It’s not that those things are unimportant, Lord, it’s just that right now is not the time to discuss them.  You told us in your word that for everything there is a season, and the season for those conversations will come – but right now, Father, is the time to weep.  To weep over the fact that these little kids were murdered in cold blood; to weep over the loss of innocent lives of teachers and administrators at an elementary school.  It’s time to weep and mourn, Lord.  Use this, somehow, to bring your people back to you.  There are people weeping right now and we’re supposed to weep with them, Father, but too many Christians are, well, just worried about other things. Let them weep, Lord.  Don’t wipe the tears away just yet because the tears of those who are affected are still there, so ours need to be present too.

And, finally, Father, I pray for those who, tomorrow, will preach your word in churches across this nation.  I know that it’s going to come up in sermons; I know people will go to church tomorrow that haven’t ever darkened the door of one before.  And they’re going to be looking for answers, answers to questions they’re asking, answers that none of us have.  Give those pastors and leaders the courage to say, “I don’t know” when they need to; give them the wisdom to know how to communicate your love and your brokenheartedness to those who hurting.  Don’t let them get distracted, Father, by politics or theological arguments.  Lord, help them just love people and communicate your love to tomorrow.

Jesus, we need you.  We need you because right now we’ve got nothing.  We’re sitting down here, two weeks before Christmas (a time that’s supposed to be about peace and joy and happiness), and we’re crying because laying in front of us are the bodies of 20 murdered kids and six murdered adults and there’s nothing we can do to bring them back.

I take that back, Lord, we do have something – we have you; I have you.  Give me the courage to share you with a hurting world; give me the courage to talk about you and lift you up, to point to you and acknowledge you.  Give me the words to say when I’m asked questions where clearly the only answer is you.  Give me the courage to love those around me and share your love with them, to shower people with the good news that even when I’ve got nothing I really have everything.  Dear God we need you.  My country needs you; all those people up there in Connecticut need you, Lord.  Show us how to share you.  Soften their hearts – somehow, some way – to be open to receive you and know you and be filled by you, because what they’re looking for they will never find outside of you.  Show us, your church, how to share you.

Book Review: Praying with the Grain by Dr. Pablo Martinez (Blog Tour)

Every once in awhile I read a book and have the thought, “Every person needs to read this book.”  And once in a blue moon I read a book and have the thought, “Every leader needs to read this book.”  But very rarely do I have both thoughts at once – but this book is an exception.  Put simply, Praying with the Grain is a book every Christian needs to read and every church leadermust read.  It’s not only that good, it’s that important.

Praying with the Grain examines prayer through the lens of personality types.  Dr. Martinez, a Christian counselor, uses the personality types established by Carl Jung and explains how one’s personality impacts how that person prays.  It examines strengths and weakness of prayer for each type, offering suggestions for people with specific personalities to strengthen their prayer.  His whole premise is that three factors have an impact on prayer: temperament, personality, and circumstances.  He argues, quite convincingly, that the first two are permanent and linked to our character (who we are as people) while the final one changes as life changes.

All I can say is go get this book and read it.  It has had a profound impact on my understanding of prayer and it’s helped me adjust how I pray as well as better understand why I struggle with certain aspects of prayer.  This is absolutely one of the most influential books I’ve ever read and deserves a shining 5/5 stars.


My Prayer

I’ve been reading a new translation called The Voice lately (I was selected to receive a preview copy awhile back and so I’ll be posting a review soon).  Anyway, as I was reading Ephesians (one of my favorite books), I was reminded of two prayers Paul prayed for the believers in the first century.  I’ve always read these and been challenged to pray them for believers I know and pray for, but recently I felt the Lord challenging me to pray them for myself.  So below I list what I’ve been praying the last week or so – reworded into first person.  This is just one of those short blog posts that I hope inspires and blesses you…

God of my Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You.  Give me a mind ready to receive wisdom and revelation so that I will truly know You.  Open the eyes of my heart, and let the light of Your truth flood in.  Shine Your light on the hope you are calling me to embrace.  Reveal to me the glorious riches you are preparing as my inheritance.  Let me see the full extent of your power that is at work in me, and may it be done according to Your might and power.  (Eph 1:17-19a)

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen me.  Fill my soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in my heart.  May love be the rich soil where my life takes root.  May it be the bedrock where my life is founded so together that with all of Your people I will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced.  God, may Your fulness flood through my entire being. (Eph 3:16-19)


In church the last three weeks I’ve been hearing a lot about “becoming more like Jesus.”  I think that if these two prayers were to be realized in my life then I’d have made a major step into being more like Jesus and being able to share him.  So, I invite you to, at the very least, pray these prayers for me (just substitute “Tom” where ever it says “I” :)).  And, if you’re willing, pray them for yourself as well.  If you’re willing to do that, consider responding to this post with a comment so I can also pray for you.  God promised in Isaiah, “I send [out my word] and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Is 55:11), so we can be confident that as we pray these scriptures they will be answered.