A Journey to Victorious Praying. Finding Discipline and Delight in Your Prayer Life
By Bill Thrasher
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
14.2 (Fall 2003) : 355-356
This stimulating and articulate book is by a professor of Bible and theology at Moody Bible Graduate School. The thirty chapters relate prayer to such subjects as the Spirit, the Word, group times, discipline, fasting, waiting on God, praise. Two appendices are on selected Bible prayers and stimulants to prayer. Plaudits on the first page and back cover are by Lyle Dorsett (biographer on E. M. Bounds, 1990), Gary Bergel who heads up Intercessors for America, Warren Wiersbe, Stephen Olford, Howard Hendricks, R. Hughes, and others.
A driving concern is Christians’ desperate weakness, needing God. Thrasher articulates prayer as “helplessness plus faith” (19), “opening up our needy lives to Him [God]” to resolve human anxieties (19), as Paul does (Phil 4:6). Praying in Jesus’ name is seen as praying in line with His character, reputation, authority, and will, living for God’s name (24, cf. Ps 115:1). Chapter 4, “Turning Your Temptations into Victorious Prayer,” is one of several good chapters. Much as O. Hallesby said in his book Praying, believers should come to God in their weakness, defeat, need, and trust. Chapter 5 on help by praying in the Spirit profitably points to depending on God who can lead a life into Christlike fervency and compassion (43). The eighth chapter delves into help when one does not know how to pray, and Chapter 11 into Scripture’s help, as in George Mueller’s using the Word to motivate prayer. Likewise, Chapter 14 counsels on praying Scripture, i.e., praying God’s thoughts and will, recognizing His authority at the throne.
Chapter 10 on “Understanding How God Works” cites Oswald Chambers’ words, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work” (131). With due respect, it seems more sensitively balanced with God’s W ord to say that prayer and other acts of obedience to God’s Word in ministry are the greater works. Of course, prayer should saturate and help with other shaping factors; it is a valid part of a whole picture.
A focus on the role of fasting (chaps. 20-22) is a good contribution. An interesting observation from Philip Schaff’s church history is that early Christians of the first three centuries fasted Wednesday and Friday, not on Monday and Thursday as Pharisees had (cf. Luke 18:12) (145-46). Thrasher lists believers who fasted—Martin Luther, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, Henry Martyn, Andrew Bonar, and Hudson Taylor (147). And how many more! The praise emphasis (chap. 27) shows how God can, with the attendant reality of Christians’ praise, accomplish such things as transforming lives mentally and emotionally, giving spiritual health, enhancing human relations, fostering faith, increasing a sense of God’s presence, and sharpening perspectives.
Chapter 23 on “waiting” starts too slowly. One gets to the fourth page (160) before learning what Thrasher means. To him, waiting includes such things as listening to God’s Word, abiding, committing to fulfill God’s desires, and obeying in faith (166-67). This puts a lot into waiting. In OT word usage and context, waiting involves trust, patient confidence, and expecting help. Listening in Scripture, while closely coordinated with waiting in the concord of spiritual attitudes, is being alertly attentive to God’s Word in earnest readiness to obey. Trusting (i.e., waiting) is patient confidence that the Word engenders when one listens (among many “wait” texts, cf. Isa 40:29-31).
This book rates favorably for its many-faceted helps and clear writing in fostering refreshing prayer that seeks God. Digesting ideas from a few pages daily and steadily practicing them before God can improve prayer’s fervency, breadth, depth, and balance in sharpening Christian living as a whole.