Book Review: "Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God's Face" by Daniel Henderson

             No doubt about it, Daniel Henderson challenges you to consider your prayer life in his book, “Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face.” I found myself exhilarated, convicted, discouraged, wistful and ultimately, prayerful, as I moved from one engaging chapter to the next. The first two-thirds of the book lay the foundation for engaging in worship-based prayer so that about halfway through I was more than ready to get to the nuts and bolts of worship-based prayer—just how does one engage in worship-based prayer?

            Worship-based prayer is what this book is all about and Daniel Henderson explains it this way: “Worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God.” He goes on to explain what that means, saying, “I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face; but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts (page 27).”

            Daniel Henderson is quick to say he’s not against prayer lists or bringing our requests to God, yet he wants to remind us that prayer is our opportunity to come to face-to-face with the living God. Daniel Henderson provides a nice balance in teaching about this aspect of our worship, while not falling headlong into emotionalism. He encourages us to pray scripturally and biblically (and explains how in the latter part of the book). Daniel Henderson explains, “Eastern religions, and even some teachers of the Christian faith, propose that the best way to hear from God’s Spirit (or maybe some other spirit) is to empty your mind, accompanied by various breathing exercises. That might be a great way to get a D in Prayer. Rather, the Scriptures affirm the best way to hear from the Spirit is to fill the mind with the Word of God, accompanied by careful reading and meditation on the sacred text. That’s the best way to receive what the Spirit is speaking clearly (page 118).” (Incidentally, George Mueller prayed in a similar manner.)

            This book was worth the time I spent reading it as it challenged me to take a good, hard look at my attitudes toward prayer and the God who hears my prayers. Daniel Henderson longs to see believers enjoy a deeper and more life-tranforming relationship with the Lord. One of the things I’ve taken away from this book is that there is no “secret” to an amazing prayer life or a quick fix. Prayer, worship-based prayer, God-honoring prayer means we come to God seeking Him, longing to know Him, and in the course of that conversation, we share our requests and concerns with Him.

Here are some of the sections I marked in the book, besides the ones I quoted above:

            “The world is not transformed by relevant Christians, strategic Christians, visionary Christians, leadership-savvy Christians, wealthy Christians, attractive Christians, educated Christians, active Christians, or articulate Christians. These are all interesting qualities, and might be helpful on occasion—especially in building big religious organizations and selling books.”

            “Ultimately, the world is transformed by sanctified Christians through whom the life of Jesus becomes a mystifying manifestation. …People changed by Jesus cannot help but change the world.” Pages 35-36.

            “We read the biblical texts that tell us ‘it is good for me to draw near to God’ (Psalm 73:28) and that we should ‘draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’ (Hebrews 10:22). We read the promise that if we draw near to God He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Yet the reality of this seems threatening and unachievable.” Page 41.

            “Countless believers have learned to pray, from a counterproductive tradition, forms of prayer passed down through the generations without much critical evaluation and biblical investigation. Some traditions in prayer rely mainly on ‘prayer lists’ and others on rote expressions, rather than upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. The primary content of many prayer gatherings is juicy information about other people rather than the foundation of God’s Word. We tend more toward discussions about the problems of people than the real experiences of the presence of the Problem Solver. Most believers know that something is amiss in these gatherings, even if they cannot put their finger on it. As a result, individuals and congregations flounder in their commitment and enjoyment of prayer. My friend David Butts, chairperson of America’s National Prayer Committee, says, ‘The reason most people do not attend prayer meetings at their church is that they have been to prayer meetings at their church.’” Pages 42-43.

“The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen.” Brazilian proverb. Page 44.

            “In considering these truths, we must search our souls about the things that trigger our prayers. What values shape our requests? Are our motives honoring to Christ? To what degree are ‘earthly treasures’ and the ‘god of mammon’ infecting our prayer life? Amid all our worries about our health, finances, family, job, education, and ministry concerns, are we seeking first His kingdom and not our own.” Pages 80-81.

            “Let God be magnified!” Page 90.

            “Early in his journey of loss, pain, and interpersonal attack, Job said the right words and struggled to do the right thing. In the end, he realized that he needed a deeper revelation of God in order to comprehend His glory (Job 42:1-6).” Page 95.

            “Puritan William Law added great application for us: ‘Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it—yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon Him.’” Page 116 (quoting William Law’s, The Power of the Spirit).

            “A. W. Tozer described this reality: ‘The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.’” Page 142 (quoting A. W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God).

            “It is worship-based prayer that cultivates a deep repentance in His presence, a growing desperation for His power, and an unquenchable passion for His renown.” Page 204.