A Review of Daniel Henderson’s “The Prayer God Loves to Answer”
I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately — how to do it, when to do it, and how to everything. It feels like the one aspect of my spiritual life that I’ve been trying to get a handle on, specifically knowing that there are certain prayers that God doesn’t answer — specifically, and for example, if you or someone you know develops cancer, and God doesn’t heal you or them despite prayers to the contrary. Or at least answer in the ways we or I expect Him to — in the cancer example, maybe there’s another way in which he’s answering that prayer, rather than by literally curing you. So when along came Daniel Henderson’s The Prayer God Loves to Answer, I was instantly hooked and wanted to read it. I think I’m glad I did. The book got me in tune with how God responds to prayer — and I use the words “in tune” kind of unexpectedly, since the book’s author, Daniel Henderson, seems to have a musical way of praying. According to one of the book’s appendices, Henderson prays in 4/4 time (he has a musical background and had a musical upbringing). While it would be too complex to go into the particulars of how that prayer works here, Henderson is more than an apt conductor and has a formula on how to pray.
Before I go any further, I think it’s wise to give thanks to the book’s publisher, Bethany House. When I got the book on NetGalley, it was originally a non-Kindle version that I would have had to read on my computer. An e-mail later, and I got my Kindle version. I’m very thankful for that, and appreciate the publisher going above and beyond to make sure that I got a copy of the book that was readable. After all, I mostly read in bed, and if I didn’t get the Kindle version, I would have been tethered to my computer to read a 200-plus page book, and in tiny print at that.
So I’ll confess I have a bit of a spoiler alert right here, though the spoiler comes rather early in Henderson’s book. It turns out that the prayer that God loves to answer is a prayer for more wisdom. As The Prayer God Loves to Answer drives home, the prayer for more wisdom comes in many guises, whether we’re praying to be more sincere or perhaps a little more graceful. The whole book is a riff on the types of answers that God gives through this prayer for more wisdom. I can certainly say that I got a great deal of knowledge out of this book, as well as a feeling of peace while reading it.
What Henderson does well in the book, and this is probably coming from many years of leading various churches, is parse Scripture. I have to admit that the guy certainly knows his stuff, and you can spend more time with the book by looking up and cross references all of the Biblical passages that Henderson reels off. It’s as though that Henderson has memorized virtually the whole Bible and it is at his fingertips.
Personally, I found the book to be rather instructive, for, at the end of each chapter, are fill-in-the-blank prayers that the reader can use to deepen their spiritual life. I found myself usually praying along with these prayers — not all of them, but quite a few — and I found myself deepening my connection with God. The prayer for wisdom, as it turns out, is a prayer for peace — at least at one point in the book. Frequently, I am a person with limited patience, particularly when I’m standing in line at stores waiting to be served. The book seemed to attune me to that fact, and, while I’ll admit that I haven’t perfected this art just yet, it made me realize my imperfection, and got me viewing people ahead of me in line as God’s children. I’m learning, and this book really got me in line with the fact that I have some things to work on.
The book, though, can be frustrating. You can play a drinking game with the book — anytime that Henderson says that “this is a prayer that God loves to answer” in the tome, you can take a sip and I’ll guarantee that you’ll be under the table by book’s end. Perhaps it could have undergone a tad bit of further editing so that the repetitious nature of the book wouldn’t seem so overt. Also, Henderson is a bit of an evangelical Christian, so he believes that Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sins, which may be a tad offensive if you’re a liberal Christian like me. And on that front, Henderson believes that we should have a fear of God. Granted, that “fear” comes in the form of wanting to do things that please God, but using the word “fear” suggests a fire and brimstone God of the type that I don’t believe in.
And, not to be further critical, but some of the anecdotes in the book don’t make too much sense. Henderson relays the story of a fellow pastor living in Eastern Florida who wanted to surprise his granddaughter with a trip to Disney World. On the way, the girl wanted to stop at a McDonald’s to play there, but the grandfather refused, not wanting to spoil the surprise — which, naturally, meant that the girl fell into a funk until she got to her final destination. The morale of the story is to not settle for McDonald’s when you can have Disney World, but I walked away wondering if the girl would have been just as happy playing at McDonald’s than she would have at Disney. I just didn’t get this point of the book in context with the chapter it was on.
However, there’s plenty of food for thought in this book. You might not want to get the Kindle or digital version of this book, as the back of the book features discussion questions that further the knowledge gained from the previous chapters. I’m not sure why these questions weren’t put at the end of their corresponding chapters, which would have made more sense, but that’s probably because they would have gotten in the way of the prayer sections. Still, this goes to show that you can do a lot of thinking with this book — if you choose — and it’s perfect for small study groups.
Overall, while the book has some deficiencies, it is a thoughtful and worthwhile book to read, and may get you thinking about changing your behaviours and being less rude to people, which is certainly the case in my life. I’m glad to have read The Prayer that God Loves to Answer. It’s author is very knowledgeable, and certainly concedes that he’s not perfect (which is refreshing to read), and will certainly get you thinking about your relationship with God, and how He chooses to respond to our needs. Please do spend some time with this book if you’re struggling with prayer, or don’t know how best to proceed. Whether or not it will answer all of your questions is moot. It will get you thinking about your God relationship and those of other people — and that much is for certain.
Daniel Henderson’s The Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ’s Greatest Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs was published by Bethany House on November 15, 2016.
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Zachary Houle is a resident of Ottawa, Canada, and was the recipient of a $4,000 arts grant from the City of Ottawa for emerging artists. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, too. He also is a music critic, with music writing publishing credits in SPIN magazine and the Ottawa Citizen, among others. He is a member of First United Church in Ottawa, Canada, and has been so for the past two years. Houle is interested in anything having to do with deepening his newfound faith in God, so, if you’re an author, feel free to get in touch. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.