The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer
By Robert L. Brandt and Zenas J. Bicket
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
11.2 (Fall 2000) : 244-246
Here is a survey on many points from prayers in each stage of Bible history. The authors are Pentecostal. Brandt is a former president of Central Indian Bible College and an executive presbyter for the Assemblies of God. Bicket was president of Berean College for ten years.
First, strengths are of note. The writers define confession as acknowledging sin, or affirming God’s greatness and goodness (23). They see intercession as one or more persons, human or divine (cf. Rom 8:26-27) asking God on behalf of another person or persons (26). The book points to obeying and building altars as reasons Abraham rose to a great role before God. It fails to show God’s sovereign grace initiating and maintaining Abraham’s relationship to Himself as making him great.
Other surveys discuss such characters as Job, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jesus, and Paul. On Daniel 9 one reads, “Know ing God’s will does not render prayer unnecessary; it makes it all the more important and effective since praying in faith always brings a response” (172). Chapter 8 on Jesus’ prayer teaching has effective points, and Chapter 14 offers help in understanding the relation of angels to prayer in aiding saints and fulfilling God’s w ill.
Weaknesses also appear. The first chapter rates “communion” as a deeper level of fellowship (intimacy) than some other prayer. Is not all true prayer, in any aspect (e.g., petition, intercession, praise) communion with God? And cannot the godly commune with God in all life’s issues? Why rate at levels what the Bible does not give us authority to rank?
One can ask why in the introduction’s key words/phrases on prayer, a frequent NT word, proseuchomai, does not appear. Far later, on p. 283, it does. Confusion arises in calling petition, intercession, and confession “means” of prayer (28), and seeing as “aspects” all 15 concepts listed (31). Some are attitudes, distinct from aspects. Prayer’s “aspects,” “parts,” or “segments” can aptly refer to parts such as petition or intercession, but an “attitude” is a spiritual characteristic that should permeate any aspect of prayer, even all parts of life. It would be effective for the book to define “worship” more carefully. The writers list it as reverence/devotion and as one word in a list of 15 on prayer (30-31), leaving the impression that the others are not worship. Any attitude, word, or act of life or in prayer can be “worship.” The book is also misleading in giving the impression that worship is praise only. All parts of prayer, or of life, are true worship if genuine devotion to God is in them.
Other attitudes that the list omits are strategic in filling all of life and all parts of prayer. Listening (hearing) and watching are examples. The book tabs submission as a “condition” for praying effectively (28). Yes, it is a condition that is an attitude, and to this Scripture adds other attitudes, e.g., faith, love, humility, unity. Later, the authors see waiting as highly crucial. Apart from their remarks, to “wait” in biblical usage as in the Psalms and Isa 40:29-31 means to trust/hope confidently and patiently expect. The writers do not explain how the various terms (aspects or attitudes) blend harmoniously in a unified life of prayer.
It is frustrating to read that the Greek word deesis in some texts means “a more importunate, passionate pleading with God” (29), and find no examples.
The book’s many good things are, for readers of non-Pentecostal orientation, also clouded by defining “praying in the Spirit” (cf. Eph 6:18; Jude 20) as praying in an unknown tongue (28). Neither text that expressly uses the phrase links prayer with “an unknown tongue” or hints at this identification. The writers read the idea into the verses from their belief system, but Ephesians and Jude in their own overall and near contexts deal with issues such as prayer in the w hole of life in harmony with the Spirit’s will and power.
To read that “of all God’s creatures only people pray” (35) is disturbing. Do angels not pray, as in praise, when they speak to exalt God, as in the Revelation or in lauding God before shepherds in Luke 2?
The book’s summaries through the Bible give impetus to increase and sharpen prayer. Still, its ideas often lack quality or fail to relate things properly to build confidence about its guidance. The use of the work may be confined more to schools where praying in the Spirit is seen as prayer speaking in tongues.