Prayers of the Bible, Leader’s Guide, Susan Hunt (P&R, 2011)
Do you feel near to God when you pray, or are you just shooting down the list? How do you pray for the strength to forgive when you are deeply hurt and offended? Are you a life-giver or a life-taker? If we know that God is sovereign and has foreordained whatever comes to pass, what’s the point of praying anyway? Sometimes our prayers can seem so powerful, and other times we need some help to get out of a prayer-rut. That’s why I love reading books on prayer. Susan Hunt does this by studying various prayers in Scripture.
First I should make note that this book is meant to be used in a women’s Bible study group. If the women in your church are looking for a study, this is a winner. Hunt is a solid, biblical teacher. If you are timid about leading a study—maybe you are unsure how to go about putting together a lesson—Hunt does all the preparatory work for you. The Leader’s Guide is all you need to be well equipped.
There is a great introduction in the Leader’s Guide called, “Preparing to Teach.” In it you will find helpful ideas to lead any small group, along with specific details on how to make this particular one a success. That begins with prayer. Hunt will help you along in praying for the group, as well as suggestions for prayer times during group. Included are some ideas given for activities to get to know one another better and build community within the group. While I like the purpose, I always feel like these “get to know you” activities are forced and a little juvenile. However, I love her ideas on getting the group involved in service to the church, and sharing prayer stories. The Guide is divided into the same chapters as the book. Each chapter gives you the lesson plan. Just as with the book, the lesson is peppered with wonderful quotes and helpful questions to enhance the discussion. It also includes a handout to photocopy for each lesson. Like I said, all the work is done for you—a great resource for a first-time Bible study teacher.
This is one of those books that gets better as you read it. The chapters focus on different themes in prayer that are gathered from particular prayers in Scripture. Chapters 2-4 all glean from Christ’s glorious prayer recorded in John 17 (Glorify, Sanctify, Unify). Each chapter offers Scripture to read, theological exposition, along with practical application. For example, after reading Psalm 51:13-17 she teaches:
When we truly repent, we are prone to become stuck in sorrow over our sin and to wallow in guilt. Faith moves on. When God’s mercy touches our misery it becomes a ministry. Sin is never private, it always hurts others. Our restoration can bless others (77-78).
The chapters also end with a “Reflect and Pray” section that usually includes Scripture, questions, and guidance for prayer regarding that study’s theme. In reading each chapter before the corresponding meeting, there is much to meditate on. This sets the group up for profitable discussion. For me, two important elements in a women’s study are rich theology and personal depth. Hunt goes two for two in Prayers of the Bible.
I will end this review with the theme of her study and the verse that introduces every chapter:
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18).
Amen to that.