Understanding how prayer works

Trying to dissect how prayer works is like using a magnifying glass to try to figure out why a woman is beautiful. If you turn God into an object, he has a way of disappearing…

The only way to know how prayer works is to have complete knowledge and control of the past, present, and future. In other words, you can figure out how prayer works if you are God. (Miller, A Praying Life, 128)


Good commentaries on sale at WTSBooks.com

Westminster Books has a good sale on the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series, especially on the new volume on Hosea in that series.

NICOT is a great commentary series (that I wish I had), and WTS Books is a great source for dependable books. Bookmark ’em, I say.

Favorite Christian books I’ve read this year

I quit my bookstore job almost a year ago, which explains why I don’t do as many book reviews as I used to (no free books and less time/excuse to read books). Also, I took a Christian book hiatus for a while. But anyway, here are some of my favorite Christian books I’ve read since entering the private sector.

As you can see, I went on a bit of a missionary biography kick. You should too.

Recommended Author: Leif Enger

peace-like-a-riverI learned about Leif Enger through Abraham and John Piper’s recommendations of his first novel, Peace Like a River. It didn’t disappoint. The narrator’s father is one of my favorite characters ever, an Old Testament prophet dropped into the Midwest in 1962. (Read the excerpt in JP’s post to see what I mean.)

Enger’s second book is So Brave, Young, and Handsome. sobravecoverWith both second books and second albums, there’s always the worry that it’ll just be a retread, but I thought Enger avoided that well. Of course there are common elements, but it’s a different story told with a different voice.

Enger’s characters are mysterious and endearing. You get the sense that there has to be a back story, but you don’t get it– you’re just dropped in where he wants you. Where he wants you is somewhere out West in a world that doesn’t exist anymore, except that you feel it does when you’re reading Enger. You don’t have the feeling that it’s 2009 and you’re reading a story about a different time, but really that you’re embedded in that time. And his use of language is sriking and skillful– each sentence can stand on its own, just the right words for its purpose.

You could say that both of these stories are about developing manhood– one in a boy and one in a grown man. Enger portrays manhood well, and in a world that’s trying desperately to forget what manhood even is, that’s exciting.

Read Calvin’s Institutes in 2009

My general New Year’s resolution is to be more intentional, efficient, and productive with my time. It occurred to me that if I cut most of the time I spend putzing around on the Internet and planned how that time was spent, I could really get a lot done. (And I wouldn’t miss the putzing.)

So one aspect of that is getting some good reading done. And fortunately for me, the Year of Productivity is also the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, so there is a lot of good Calvin-related stuff coming out. My favorite project is reformation 21’s Blogging the Institutes. They’ve broken Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion down into 5-days-a-week readings, and one of their bloggers posts on each day’s section.

I’ve mentioned before that Calvin is way underrated, by anti-Calvinists and Calvinists alike. His writing is instructional and devotional, and his intellect is really unmatched. Institutes of the Christian Religion is one of the most important books ever written, and this project makes it more accessible (and finishable). If you want to learn more about the Bible and theology, this is one of the best ways I could think of to do it. (I started today, reading two days’ worth, and it took me less than 15 minutes. It’s very doable!) You can get the reading plan by emailing r21@alliancenet.org, or contact me directly and I’ll get it to you.

Just for good measure, here’s Piper on the discipline of scheduled reading:

Suppose that you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. Assume that an average book is 250 pages long. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year.

Or take a longer classic like John Calvin’s Institutes (fifteen hundred pages in the Westminster edition). At twenty minutes a day and 250 words a minute and six days a week, you could finish it in twenty-five weeks. Then Augustine’s City of God and B. B. Warfield’s Inspiration and Authority of the Bible could be finished before year’s end.

This astonishing discovery freed me from the paralysis of not starting great, mind-shaping, heart-enriching books because I lacked enough big blocks of time. It turns out that I don’t need long periods of time in order to read three masterpieces in one year! I needed twenty minutes a day, six days a week. (Brothers, We are Not Professionals, 66-67)

My Favorite Theology Books of 2008

5. John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life

4. Tom Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ

3. Tim Keller, The Reason for God

2. Kevin deYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys who Should Be

1. The ESV Study Bible. (I haven’t written a review yet, but here’s the short version: Get it. Sell something on Craigslist if necessary. It’s great.)