In his book Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face, author Daniel Henderson says it’s time we stop coming to God with our shopping lists of needs. A better way to pray, he suggests, is to “seek the face of God before the hand of God” p. 27.
Henderson starts out in Part One by poking fun of the prayer meetings his parents insisted he attend as a child. These consisted of a lot of visiting and discussing peoples’ needs (mostly physical health problems). He quips that people spent many more hours praying for God to keep His ill saints from glory than to save sinners from hell. Having planted lots of discontent with the old prayer-list-focused type of prayer meeting, Henderson lays the groundwork for biblical prayer. In chapters that the explore topics of seeking God’s face and doing everything for His glory, he holds up people like Moses for readers to emulate.
In Part Two he further explains his thesis of prayer in chapters on what it means to abide in Christ and pray in Jesus’ name. He discusses how the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life and God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible affect how people pray and what they pray for.
He goes from the theory of prayer (Parts One and Two) to its practice in Part Three. There he shows how the Lord’s prayer can become one’s prayer template. As well he gives advice on how to implement the ideas he has developed. Four key questions (“Who is God? [reverence]; How should I respond? [response]; What do I pray about? [requests]; Where do I go from here? [readiness]” – p. 174) help readers bring focus to prayer and stimulate specific prayers. There is also a chapter that explains how his method would work in an actual prayer session.
Though some of his humor is corny (“I had a serious ‘drug problem.’ My parents drug me to the old-fashioned Wednesday night prayer meeting almost every week” – p. 24), and one or two chapter titles are flip (e.g. Ch. 5: “Glowin’ Moses and a Transformed You”), there is much to like and learn from this book. Henderson’s teaching on seeking the glory of God and the resultant prayer that is molded by God’s revelation of Himself and His will for us rather than our desires for ourselves is scripturally defensible from every angle. His chapters on praying in Jesus’ name and how our abiding in Him guides what we request are full of depth and insight. My review copy is now full of underlined passages that articulate wisdom about prayer that I am hoping to apply in my own life – passages like:
“Worship is the response of all we are to the revelation of all God is….worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God. God’s face is the essence of who He is. God’s hand is the blessing of what He does. God’s face represents His person and presence. God’s hand expresses His provision… 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” p. 27.
“The real joy and assurance in prayer comes from the primary focus of seeking Christ’s person and presence prior to His provision. Out of that intimacy of seeking His face, we discover again the wonder of His characters, His heart, His purpose, and His will” – p. 133.
Besides solid teaching about prayer the book contains other features that give it value. Inspirational stories of people whose lives have been impacted by using Henderson’s method of prayer are scattered throughout the text. Several relevant quotes of others begin each chapter and Henderson quotes many great theologians and Christian thinkers throughout. There are also five appendices which discuss prayer-related topics like “Face-to-Face Encounters with God,” “How Jesus Prayed” and others. A chapter-by chapter section of questions and discussion topics at the back of the book make it a great choice for group study.
If you’re dissatisfied with your personal prayer life or looking for a resource to broaden and deepen the prayers of your small group or church, Transforming Prayer is definitely worth checking out.