God’s Prayer Program, by T.M. Moore

There’s a bit too much alliteration in this book. And the word “program” is, quite possibly, used more times than there are pages in the book.

However, I did find some positive things in the book. There are a number of good reasons given as to why we should consider using the Psalms as a foundation for our prayers.

I love the Psalms, and have for at least two decades. Maybe that came out wrong. I have always loved the Psalms, but for at least two decades they have captivated my soul. I do believe that they are, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the “prayer book of the Bible.” And this is one place where T.M. Moore nails it.

I was able to, in a way, get around the over-usage of the word “program,” and glean some positive things. Moore begins by alerting us to the need for the idea of using Psalms as the basis for our prayer life. Most of us need some serious help when it comes to praying, and pretty much anything we need can be found in the lengthy book that can be found in the exact middle of most Bibles (unless there are several hundred pages of study helps in the back of yours, in which case you will likely find Revelation in the middle). I have long felt that that this is no accident.

For centuries, the Psalms were prayed, daily, by the Church. Some monks would even pray through them in a week, or perhaps even one day. Somewhere along the way, the church lost track of this. We got modern. We got techno. But we lost something precious. We forgot about praying the Psalms.

Moore specifically gives us his goal for praying the Psalms. He borrows from Athanasius who, in the fourth century said, “He who recites the psalms is uttering [them] in his own words, and each sings them as if they were written concerning him . . . [H]e handles them as if he is speaking about himself. And the things spoken are such that he lifts them up to God as himself acting and speaking them from himself.” Moore goes on to say, “Simply put, the goal of learning to pray the psalms is to make the psalms our own prayers.”

Moore lists several ways to pray the Psalms. You can pray them verbatim. There are many psalms with which this will work just fine. But then there are others that you might want to paraphrase as you pray. You can allow the reading of a psalm to inspire you to pray for other people and/or circumstances.

Of course, anyone familiar with Psalms knows that there are a few “problem” psalms. The most obvious of these is Psalm 137. You know the one. It begins “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Not so bad, at first, but it’s the ending that is troublesome. “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” I can’t very well pray THAT!! But I can read that psalm and allow it to inspire me to pray for persecuted and oppressed Christians in other parts of the world where scenarios such as that might just be reality.

There are benefits to praying the Psalms, including a deeper sense of the presences of God, a more comprehensive prayer life (Psalms runs the gamut of the emotional state of humanity), greater consistency in prayer, more freedom in prayer, and an enhanced prayer life.

Don’t be fooled, though. Prayer is hard work. And our enemy definitely doesn’t want us to be praying. So if you plan to make use of this wonderful tool, be prepared for obstacles to rise up in your path.

I have already begun praying Psalms, but am still working on incorporating them more into my daily prayer life. Moore offers some sample schedules at the end of the book, but, frankly, I found the monthly one to be a bit confusing. I do know that if I read five psalms a day, I can read through all of them in a month. So that’s where I’m starting. I also believe that, based on a previous book that I read (The Psalter Reclaimed, by Gordon J. Wenham), that they are arranged the way they are for a purpose, and for that reason, will be reading them in sequence.

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in using Psalms as a foundation for their prayer lives. Hopefully, you can get around the many appearances of that word, “program.”

TTFN, y’all!

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Clinging: The Experience of Prayer, by Emilie Griffin

This is an incredible little book. Weighing in at only 72 pages, it might not seem worth your while, but it most definitely is, especially if you are interested in developing a deeper, more intimate prayer life.

This is not a theology book, nor is it a technical kind of “how to pray” book. This is a book about doing exactly what the title says: Clinging. Clinging to what or who, you ask? Clinging to God/Jesus. Clinging to our Father like there is no one or nothing else that can help us.

I was immediately captivated in the first page of the forward when Ms. Griffin says, citing William Johnston, “the mystic must cling to God (‘for God is his truest being’), but need not cling to views and ideas about God.” Earlier in the forward, she says, “As for ‘clinging,’ I have consciously chosen an image of attachment to God, in hopes of conveying our dependency on him.” And truthfully clinging to God will detach us from “false dependencies that bind us hand and foot.”

There are seven chapters, each describing an aspect of prayer. The first, rightfully so, is called “Beginning.” Again, I was captivated by the first few lines. “There is a moment between intending to pray and actually praying that is as dark as any moment in our lives. It is the split second between thinking about prayer and really praying. For some of us, this split second may last for decades.”

That still gives me goosebumps, for it is truth. Beginning is the hardest part of prayer, isn’t it? We think about it, we plan for it, we commit that we will do it, and then we do almost anything else to keep from actually starting it.

The book works through other aspects, such as yielding and transparency, then concludes with the final chapter, “Clinging.” This paragraph sums it all up quite well.

“We must cling to the one reality that does not crumple. The one rock that will not be washed loose in the tide and onslaught of anything. We must cling to the one reality that will hold firm, though the earth be destroyed and the mountains flung into the sea and the sun put out. We must cling to the One who holds eternity in his hand, who will not perish in the end, and who has power to save us, too. The One who knew us before we existed, in whose thought and by whose hand we exist from moment to moment. He chose and shaped us from our mother’s womb to be intimate with him. This intimacy is what we were made for. Apart from it, we feel at odds with existence and even with ourselves. Close to him, we are at peace. This is the one intimacy of which we need not be afraid, for it will not disappoint or betray us. On God we can loose all the intensity of what we are, all the passion and the longing we feel. This is the one surrender we can make in utter trust, knowing that we can rest our whole weight there and nothing will give way.”

Clinging. This is my goal in prayer and devotion. I want to cling to my Father like there is nothing else.

I will be reading this book again. I can easily see it being one of those that becomes completely worn out over time.

TTFN, y’all!