Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Prayer of Jesus – Ken Hemphill

© 2001 Broadman & Holman, Nashville.

Prayer is a constant concern for Americans. There is the constant fight over when and where people can pray – that includes the quip that “as long as there are tests there will be prayer in public schools.” In the church community, there are volumes of books, hours of conferences, and pages of small group study materials that teach us how to pray. Some of these efforts go so far as to suggest that if we prayer a certain prayer in a certain way, then we will get whatever we want. Almost like a magic incantation.

Although the subtitle suggests “The Promise and Power of Living in the Lord’s Prayer,” the book is not about a formula to fabulous living. Instead it is a thoughtful dissection of the model prayer found in Matthew 6. Hemphill has long been a favorite among Baptist writers. His congenial style, an personable demeanor are just what people are looking for in a pastor, seminary president, or church growth consultant (all of which he has done quite successfully). His treatment of the Lord’s Prayer, while occasionally a choppy read is filled with well-considered study and personal anecdotes that bring the principles he espouses to life.

From the very beginning, Hemphill suggests that if believers will follow the pattern set forth by Jesus when His disciples asked Him to “teach us to pray” it will change their lives. He outlines the prayer into four triads dealing with how we respond in prayer to God, and then offers instruction on how to apply this outline to daily living. By doing this, we are told that we can apply other scriptures such as “pray without ceasing” to our daily lives.

The outline of the model prayer—a three-part address, a three-part commitment, a three-part petition, and a three-part benediction—bears little resemblance to the age-old prayer outline used by evangelists for years—ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). The major difference in these two approaches to prayer life is the focus. While both deal approaches deal with our sin at some point, our relationship with God at some point, and our need at some point, Hemphill’s approach is actually more God-centered. If we get to the place that we really place God at His rightful place in our lives, praying according to the pattern that Christ gave us should do nothing less than draw us closer to Him.

Hemphill includes suggestions of how to put these ideas into practice in our personal lives as well as in group study. For the practical suggestions and the personable presentation I give Hemphill’s study of the Lord’s Prayer 4 out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, January 10, 2008

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