Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: "Praying Backwards"

TITLE: PRAYING BACKWARDS - transform your prayer life by beginning in Jesus' Name
AUTHOR: Bryan Chapell
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005, (208pp).

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' NameThis book has an intriguing title. The main thesis of this book is that our prayers should begin, continue and end with Jesus's Name as our first concern. The way we usually end our prayers, should instruct us right from the beginning how we should pray.  We should seek God for God alone. We should seek God's purposes in any of our prayers first. We should let God's will be done whenever we pray. As we end in the name of Jesus, we should also begin with putting Jesus foremost and always through all of our prayers. Doing this corrects two common errors. First, we avoid limiting God through our human wisdom, thinking that we know best. We remind ourselves God knows best. Second, we do not use God's Name as some kind of a wishing well. We remind ourselves that it is God's purpose that is most important. Chapell adds:
"But when our routines have desensitized us to his priorities, then it's time to begin where we end. Praying backwards will inevitably turn our prayer priorities upside down. By saying 'in Jesus' name' first, we will more readily discern when our prayers go astray from his purposes, hijacked by our self-interest." (15)

How is Our Prayer life transformed?
This is the key question to ask when reading another book on prayer. Chapell leads the reader through ten chapters on how praying in Jesus's Name and priority first can transform us. I paraphrase some of the author's thoughts below.
  1. Transforming the heart: We change 'our' needs/desires/wants to 'God's needs/desires/wants.
  2. Transforming the purpose: Put Jesus' purpose first by declaring every prayer with God's will be done.
  3. Transforming our Trust: Praying and trusting God that He will never forsake us and will do the best for us. We aim to transform our prayers from doubt to faith.
  4. Transforming Our reliance on God's Power, not ours: The world's problems can only be solved by God. When we pray, we are asking God for His work on the world.
  5. Transforming our Boldness: We approach God the Father in the Name of the Son, and will not be afraid to face the Awesome and Almighty God.
  6. Transforming our Expectations:In praying that God's will be done, we open ourselves and give God the permission and freedom to adjust our expectations accordingly.
  7. Transforming Our perseverance: We can only pray persistently in God's strength.
  8. Transforming our Level of Righteousness: When we pray, we pray that we will do the right thing and not do things contrary to the teachings of Scripture.
  9. Transforming our Wisdom: When we are able to pray in wisdom, we are praying in God's Name.
  10. Transforming Our Prayer: We pray and overcome ten hindrances to prayer;
    1. personal disobedience (Prov 28:9)
    2. Unconfessed sin (Ps 66:18)
    3. Unforgiving attitude (Mark 11:25)
    4. Uncaring actions (Prov 21:13)
    5. Selfishness (James 4:3)
    6. Self-promotion (Matt 6:5-6)
    7. Family discord (1 Peter 3:7)
    8. Failure to pray (James 4:2)
    9. Doubt (James 1:5-7)
    10. Community/national disobedience (Jer 11:10-11)
Book Pastor Comments
This is a wonderful book that corrects/redirects our prayer posture from self to Jesus. Far too often, we pray with our own interests and own concerns more than God's. We pray as if our problems are larger than God's. We overemphasize our concerns and under-declare God's wider love for the world. The Lord's Prayer is perhaps the most popular and most frequently used prayer in Christian communities all around the world. Sad to say, there are many who offer them as lip service rather than actual heart-felt desire for God's will to be done.

Chapell is right. We need to learn to pray backwards and to pray in such a way that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I like the way that Chapell lays out the ten chapters, each dealing with a particular attribute of the Christian life. Prayer covers a multitude of Christian behaviour, which is why prayer is such a major part of being a Christian. My favourite parts in the book are the prayers at the end of each chapter. Those prayers alone are worth the price of the book.

This book is like a re-calibration or re-alignment of how our prayer lives should look like. If you want to be transformed your focus from self to God, buy this book and pray with it as a guide.

Ratings: 4.25 stars of 5


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