September 26, 2006

Stanley Grenz, Prayer

In this great little book, theologian Stanley Grenz takes a careful look at Prayer. He looks at what prayer is, and why we as Christians should do it. He then goes on to focus on petitionary prayer, helping us to build an understanding of God and the world where prayer really matters.

Grenz clearly has a heart for prayer. And his passion is reflected throughout these pages. He writes as someone who wants to tear down barriers to prayer and help draw us closer to God. He begins this task by strongly reminding Christians how important prayer is, and how important it should be. He starts off with the bold assertion that prayer is the biggest challenge facing the church today. Many people have relegated prayer to the back corners of our lives, maybe doing it out of habit, but no longer really believing in its power. Grenz sets out to remind us that prayer is to be cenral to who we are as Christians. This reminder includes a look at the role played in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and the role it has played in the life of the church ever since. He also looks at how prayer has been understood theologically, and sets out to build a theological understanding of prayer. His understanding focuses on prayer as being "the cry for the kingdom." Prayer is a time when we come into God's presence to entreat him to bring about things as he wills. We pray "according to God's will," seeking that God's desires, God's very kingdom, would be done here on earth. In essence, we are longing for the future to break into the present. And God has invited us into relationship with him in such a way that our prayer in some way releases God's power to act. Our very petitions can make a difference.

This great little book is an education in itself. Grenz looks at many rational stumbling blocks that can interfere with our prayers, and then takes an extended look at what it means to pray according to God's will. This is clearly a theology alive with God's spirit, and it calls the believer back to what should be at the heart of her or his life, prayer.

September 06, 2006

Leon Morris, Revelation

Revelation is probably one of the most feared books in the New Testament, and in the whole Bible. It's imagery is strange and often cryptic, and some don't quite know what to make of it—it seems easier to ignore it. But it's also a book that is full of stunning visions and memorable poetry. And Leon Morris opens the book up for the reader in a way that makes it approachable and understandable.

I can't say that I often read commentaries from start to finish, but I did with this one. This commentary on the book of Revelation by Leon Morris, is part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. It's meant to be readable for layman as well as student and pastor. Morris is a recognized exegete on the Johanine literature, and brings learning to bear on this interesting book. He takes a very irenic and faithful approach to the book that seeks to discern its meaning and intent, both in its original setting and for readers today. And I think he acheives just that aim. After reading this somewhat short commentary, Revelation seems so much more approachable, and I highly recomment it to others. Morris finds Revelation as a book of great comfort and encouragement to the troubled Christians for which it was written, who were struggling under persecution from the Roman authorities. But he also sees in it God's identity and intention for the world layed out for all to see. He unpacks the symbolism in a helpful way that keeps it meaningful and brings it "down to earth" without either being a slave to the literal or dismissing it as merely figurative. He seems to find just the right approach to the book that retains its prophetic power yet doesn't give the book over to complicated schemes of future-times events. Highly recommended. A great introduction to this powerful prophetic book.