Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book #4: Before Amen

I've been a Christian for at least 20 years and still struggle with prayer. One of my most popular posts ever is my thoughts on the matter. I wrote that post almost four years ago and still have a lot of the same questions. So I'm always on the lookout for a good book on prayer. I got an email from Proverbs 31 Ministries about Max Lucado's new book called "Before Amen" a few months ago. And then P31 revealed that they were going to do an online Bible Study to go along with it. So I signed up for the study and bought the book. Both were a little bit disappointing. 

The online bible study mostly reiterated what the book said and linked to cheesy videos. And the book itself . . .

Let me preface this by saying I started the book with preconceived notions. When my dad saw the book he said, "Oh Max Lucado. Pastor Chris says his past few books sound like they were written while he was waiting in the airport terminal for his flight to arrive." I was surprised to hear that. My dad has Lucado books on his shelves. Pastor Chris recommended one of his books in his Top 50. But after reading this one, I have to say I agree.

The premise of the book is the "Pocket Prayer." It's supposed to be simple, easy to remember, something to build off of. But it was too simple for me. Lucado expounds on what it means that God is our father, why it's important to thank him, why it's important to ask forgiveness, how to present our petitions - both for ourselves and others, and how to pray "in Jesus' name." Nothing he said was new to me. Nothing shone light on my theological questions about God's sovereignty. I was also troubled that Lucado spent very little time discussing how God sometimes doesn't answer our prayers - or at least answers them with a "no." He made it appear that God is our father and therefore wants good for us and all we have to do is ask for it. He shared lots of examples of people seeing miracles because of their prayers - which I absolutely don't deny. God does answer prayers. He does perform miracles. But not always.

My question still remains: why pray if God is sovereign and has our best in mind? His will is perfect and he knows what's best for me. The reason he sometimes answers my prayer "no" is because he knows the big picture - whether he has something better in store for me or whether he just wants me to grow. I fully trust that. I believe that his plan is perfect. Why should I try to change his mind when he knows so much more than I do?

My next prayer book is going to be Philip Yancey's "Prayer." Hopefully that one will be more helpful.

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