Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer
I would recomend everyone to read this book! The opening imagery draws you in and each chapter will definitely spur you on in your own prayer life. You will see how men have strived to truly glorify God in prayer and not just simply pray to 'get stuff'. In addition it is really interesting to see how many men after God prayed and viewed prayer throughout history.
July 6, 2011
Toward Prayerful Praying...
Ã¢ÂÂPrayerful praying.Ã¢ÂÂ Far from a mere redundancy, it is what Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour hope to encourage within the body of Christ through the rich prayer lives of the Reformers and the Puritans in, "Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer" (Reformation Heritage Books, 2011). "Taking Hold of God" compiles some of the richest theological meditations on prayer from Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Knox, Henry, and other Ã¢ÂÂgiants of the faithÃ¢ÂÂ within the Reformed and Puritan traditions. Beeke, Najapfour, and others have sifted through the weighty primary sources to leave the reader with the pure gold and potent perspectives of these men for which Ã¢ÂÂprayer was a priority.Ã¢ÂÂ Beeke notes:
"These giants of church history dwarf us in true prayer. Is that because they were more educated, were less distracted by cares and duties, or lived in more pious times? No; undoubtedly, what most separates them from us in is that prayer was their priority; they devoted considerable time and energy to it. They were prayerful men who knew how to take hold of God in prayer (Isa. 64:7) [p. 224]."
Focusing in on the theologies of prayer among 9 influential Purtians and Reformers (along with the aforementioned, also include: Perkins, Burgess, Bunyan, Boston), together with some additional men along the way, Beeke and Najapfour aim to guide the reader in allowing this treasure of theology, practice, and experience to make our prayer lives Ã¢ÂÂmore informed, more extensive, more fervent, and more effectualÃ¢ÂÂ (p. xiii). I would say that they accomplish their task quite well. With the amount of rich theology and testimony in each of the essays on prayer, it would be a book the reader would do well to read not just once.
Additionally, "Taking Hold of God" aims to develop a robust theology of prayer as it addresses how other theological aspects relate to and inform oneÃ¢ÂÂs prayer life and experience. My favorite bits included BeekeÃ¢ÂÂs chapters on Calvin (Prayer as Communion with God), Matthew Henry (a Practical Method of Daily Prayer), and Thomas Boston (Praying to Our Father), and Prayerful Praying Today. Also, Peter BeckÃ¢ÂÂs chapter on Jonathan Edwards (Prayer and the Triune God) proved to be edifying and informative as well.
Particularly worth noting within these chapters was CalvinÃ¢ÂÂs perspective on the purpose of prayer in light of the sovereignty of God. Calvin taught that prayer was Ã¢ÂÂnot primarily instituted for God, but rather for man. Prayer is a means given to man so that he might, by faith, Ã¢ÂÂreach those riches which are laid up for us with the Heavenly FatherÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 29). CalvinÃ¢ÂÂs theology of prayer was such that, Ã¢ÂÂPrayer is a way in which believers seek and receive what God has determined to do for them from eternityÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 30).
Furthermore, I found Matthew HenryÃ¢ÂÂs remarks on prayer and the importance, practice and purpose of family worship to be convicting and encouraging. Ã¢ÂÂ[Henry] considered family worship as a time for the whole family to come to God in prayer, seeking His blessing, thanking Him for His mercies, and bringing Him fractures in our relationships so He might heal themÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 148).
Henry also favored format in daily prayer. Though a Christian can occasionally be caught up with the greatness of God in such a way that methods may hinder, those times are likely quite rare. Utilizing the Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1645) Henry outlined effective ways to keep prayer focused and substantive so as to Ã¢ÂÂnot be Ã¢ÂÂrash with our mouth; and let not our heart be hasty to utter any thing before God;Ã¢ÂÂ but let every word be well weighed, because Ã¢ÂÂGod is in heaven, and we are upon the earth,Ã¢ÂÂ Eccl. 5:2Ã¢ÂÂ (p. 154). Beeke includes one such helpful outline from Henry on adoration within our prayers.
As well, within BeekeÃ¢ÂÂs chapter on Thomas Boston, BostonÃ¢ÂÂs theology of prayer in light of the doctrine of adoption and the Trinity was immensely heartening and enlightening. Boston taught that, Ã¢ÂÂadoption is the foundation of prayer, and prayer is the fruition of adoptionÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 161, emphasis mine). Moreover, in light of BostonÃ¢ÂÂs theology of prayer/adoption, Ã¢ÂÂPrayer is not just a privilege of adoption; it is a sign of the adoption, for it is the fruit of the Spirit of adoptionÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 168).
All together, "Taking Hold of God" demonstrates that what seems to have characterized the prayer of these men, and the others within the book, was their focus and dependence upon GodÃ¢ÂÂs Word to shape, sustain, and give substance to their prayers to the glory and enjoyment of God. Beeke fittingly concludes with a chapter aimed at helping the reader practically move in the direction of the Puritans and Reformers so that we, by GodÃ¢ÂÂs grace, may achieve a life of Ã¢ÂÂprayerful prayingÃ¢ÂÂ that Ã¢ÂÂclings with one hand to heavenÃ¢ÂÂs footstool and with the other to CalvaryÃ¢ÂÂs cross, stirring itself Ã¢ÂÂto take holdÃ¢ÂÂ of God (Isa. 64:7).Ã¢ÂÂ
I wholeheartedly commend this book!
*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.
April 11, 2011